Blue Springs and other Eastern Jackson County residents will soon have little to complain about when it comes to cultural offerings.

Blue Springs and other Eastern Jackson County residents will soon have little to complain about when it comes to cultural offerings.

Even if the drive to downtown Kansas City can be used an excuse not to go, planners and supporters of the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts hope you go anyway this September.

The state-of-the-art facility has been in the planning stages since 1999 when the Kauffman Foundation purchased the property from former presidential candidate and businessman Ross Perot. It will open for its first show on Sept. 16.

Unlike other performance art centers, the Kauffman Center is privately funded (with the exception of the parking garage, which is on land owned by the city). That fact made the time span between conception and reality much shorter, said Larry Kembell, a spokesperson for the center and speaker at the regular luncheon of the Blue Springs Chamber of Commerce.

“Most centers take 20 to 25 years to build,” Kembell said, adding that private funding helped cut out the red tape often associated with publicly funded projects.

The center will complete the downtown development plan, which consists of the Power & Light District and the Sprint Center.

A marvel of engineering, the 285,000-square-foot center will be home to the Kansas City Symphony, the Kansas City Ballet and the Lyric Opera of Kansas City, as well as numerous other companies meant to bring performing arts to Kansas City – and to its outlying areas.

However, the foundation is still $36 million short of its funding goal. The foundation has already raised 90 percent, or $376 million, of its total cost of $413 million.

Some highlights include:

The Muriel Kauffman Theater seats 1,800 people. It will be the home for the opera, ballet and theater performances.

One key feature in the theater – addressing a common complaint among opera-goers – is the LCD panel placed in the seats. Audience members can simply press a button and the panel will translate the lyrics of the performance. Only one other center offers such innovation: The Met in New York City.

At the Helzberg Hall, 1,600 people will be able to watch symphony and orchestra shows in one of the most state-of-the-art halls in the country.

Supporting what the foundation calls “the widest range of musical repertoire” is a 5,548-pipe Casavant organ, the largest in the United States.

Each level in each hall will have restrooms and refreshment areas. The Brandmeyer Great Hall, into which visitors arrive, is the largest glass and cable structure in the world.

Still, the foundation continues to look for donations. The center allows people to purchase seats, upon which names will be placed on a gold plaque. The prices vary, Kembell said, and all purchases are tax deductible.

For its first show, Placido Domingo will perform on Sept. 16, and Itzhak Perlman, the famous violinist, Diana Krall and the Kansas City Symphony perform on Sept. 17.

An open house for the center will be Sept. 18.

Kembell said the center has booked 300 days of the center’s first operating year.

“We’ll have a musical experience in Kansas City unlike anything you’ve ever experienced before,” he said.

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