Architect hired to draw up plans for Thalia Mara Hall renovations

Published: Nov. 23, 2022 at 3:48 PM CST
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JACKSON, Miss. (WLBT) - Major renovations are on tap for Jackson’s municipal auditorium, and hopefully they’ll be mostly completed in time for the International Ballet Competition next year.

Tuesday, the Jackson City Council approved spending up to $90,000 on a contract with Cooke Douglass Farr Lemons Architects and Engineers to draw up plans for what city officials are calling “phase 1.5″ of improvements at Thalia Mara Hall.

“The state gave us $2 million to work on the project, so that will include exterior lighting, a new covered awning for the walkway that goes down the side of the building, so that anybody in a wheelchair will have covering if it rains. Currently that’s not the situation...” he said, “and new wayfinding signage.”

The design work is being funded by the Friends of Thalia Mara Hall and by the Community foundation for Mississippi.

Once plans are finalized, the project will be bid out. “And then we will get started immediately,” he said. “What we’re learning as we come out of the pandemic is that lead times on a lot of products are long, but we’ve been ahead of it as best we can. We can’t predict it, but we’re hoping to get as much done before the IBC as possible.”

The International Ballet Competition is slated for June 10-24 next year at Thalia Mara. Approximately 100 dancers from across the globe will be invited to participate.

The event, which is held in the United States every four years, was initially scheduled for June 2022, but was delayed when the COVID-19 pandemic disrupted competition plans for Finland and Bulgaria.

Lewis said the hall has seen business pick up again since coming out of the worst of the pandemic.

“We have a couple of sell out shows coming up. December is going to be full of holiday spectaculars. We’re thrilled to be able to have a lot of comedy shows in the news year,” he said. “And we’ll have a full lineup headed into the spring.”

Shows scheduled include comedian Leanne Morgan and Christian rock artist Zach Williams, as well as three performances of The Book of Mormon Broadway show and the well-known musical Annie.

According to the city’s website, the 2,040-seat auditorium is 54 years old. In 1994, it was renamed after the late Thalia Mara, who came to Mississippi years earlier to develop a professional ballet company and school.

The latest renovation plans were drawn up after the city reached out to the various users of the facility, including arts organizations, promoters and the like.

Lewis said the city has no plans to construct a new auditorium, saying that a new one could cost as much as $100 million. However, he says a auditorium is not needed. “It satisfies what we need as far as sizing goes. We can accommodate a wide variety of events,” he said. “It is a great building, in great shape [and] the bones are really good.”

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