‘A generational blunder’: Key player in Abravanel Hall’s genesis speaks out against demolition ideas

May 8, 2024, 5:40 PM | Updated: May 9, 2024, 12:57 pm

SALT LAKE CITY — “There is no way to ever replace that building. That’s why we have to save it!” said prominent Utahn Richard Eyre, of Salt Lake City’s Maurice Abravanel Hall.

“There’s a way to make that beautiful corridor without touching that beautiful, iconic building,” he said.

Eyre is reacting to revitalization plans in downtown Salt Lake City, which could include the demolition of Abravanel Hall. He believes

Following the joint statement from the Salt Lake County Mayor and the Smith Entertainment Group about the future of Abravanel Hall, home of the Utah Symphony, there are revitalization plans.

Spence Eccles responded to them with a statement:

A strong and vital city includes activities that enrich the lives of its residents – from the arts, to sports, to education and beyond. With creativity and collaboration, we can work together to support our city’s healthy growth AND support Utah’s rich cultural history including Abravanel Hall and the arts. What we must do first is come together as collective stakeholders to ask questions, listen, and build a plan that takes everything into consideration to support the success of our beautiful Capital City.

Known then as Symphony Hall, thousands of Utahns gathered for its first concerts in downtown Salt Lake City in September of 1979.

Abravanel Hall is pictured in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, May 8, 2024. Smith Entertainment Group, Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County envision streets within the vicinity of the Delta Center and the City Creek Center filled with businesses and housing units. The plan would keep venues like Abravanel Hall and the Utah Museum of Contemporary Art, but it’s unclear yet if those buildings will be renovated or rebuilt. (Laura Seitz, Deseret News)

Eyre led the bond election campaign to raise the money to build it.

“I don’t want to let Salt Lake County ever forget that dream. And that it was their voters, your parents probably in many cases, who brought that building into being,” he said. “We must never let it go … to keep that beautiful icon going for our children and our grandchildren.”

Eyre said the beauty of the building’s interior is matched only by its acoustics.

“We had the greatest acoustician in the world, a man named Cyril Harris from New York, and he said, ‘If you want a symphony hall that will stand forever, and that will be known as one of best acoustical halls in the world, you must build it just for the Symphony.'”

Money from that bond election during the Bicentennial also funded the renovation of the Capitol Theatre, home to both Ballet West and the Utah Opera Company.

Eyre said he could not believe that the state’s premier arts organization could lose its home to a proposed revitalization of an area east of the Delta Center.

“This is not a building that could ever be replaced,” he said. “If we were to raze it or try to rebuild a different facility, it would be a generational blunder and people would regret it for decades.”

Symphony Hall became Abravanel Hall in 1983. It was named for the beloved Maestro Maurice Abravanel, music director for 32 years. He insisted that every school child in Utah experience the symphony, and that continues.

The building is 45 years old and needs renovation, but Eyre is concerned that some believe it’s less expensive to rebuild.

“I mean, when the committee makes a statement that compares the benefits of rebuilding with the excessive costs of renovating, that’s wrong. It should be reversed. It’s the benefits of renovating and keeping versus the high cost of rebuilding. And I hear numbers like it would cost hundreds of millions of dollars to fix broadband. Well, that’s nonsense. That’s wrong, it should be reversed. It’s the benefits of renovating and keeping, versus the high cost of rebuilding.”

He said those who would even consider demolition do not understand that Salt Lake City was first an arts community, and that should never be forgotten.

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‘A generational blunder’: Key player in Abravanel Hall’s genesis speaks out against demolition ideas