Five years ago, this week the curtain went up for first time at the Smith Center, providing Las Vegas a venue for everything from Broadway productions to intimate Cabaret Jazz concerts to field trips for school children.
The half-billion-dollar performing arts center has staged nearly 2,000 performances and played host to more than 2 million people, including 350,000 Clark County students attending plays, concerts, and workshops.
Taking the stage have been musicals such as “Wicked,” an adaption of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” by magician Raymond Teller of Penn and Teller fame, concerts by the Cleveland Orchestra and performances by the Joffrey Ballet.
Smith Center Board Chairman Don Snyder told KNPR's State of Nevada that the center was created to stand the test of time and become like of the grand performing arts halls found around the world.
“In a city that has a tendency to build things and tear them down after a decade or two or three, this is something that is going to be here forever,” he said.
Snyder and Smith Center president and CEO Myron Martin credit much of the success of the center to a clear business plan they laid out together in 1999.
One of the centerpieces of that plan is a focus on serving the Las Vegas community. Unlike performance venues on the Strip that focus on tourists, Snyder, Martin and others involved in its creation, wanted the focus to be on the community.
“Our decision was we’re building this for friends and neighbors for people who live in this community,” Martin said.
Martin said he felt that the center hit that mark when it hosted a memorial for two police officers.
“For me, the moment where the Smith Center really became the living room for Las Vegas is when we hosted the memorial service for the fallen Metro police officers, who were shot down in the call of duty a couple of years ago,” he said.
Martin said the staff of the center made the impossible possible when it transformed the stage to hold the services for officers Igor Soldo and Alyn Beck in 2014.
Besides hosting a memorial for a community in mourning, the Smith Center hosts resident companies the Las Vegas Philharmonic and the Nevada Ballet Theater.
The center is perhaps best known as the place to see Broadway shows.
It will be one of the first places outside Broadway where audiences can see the musical “Hamilton,” which is set to run at the Smith Center for most of June 2018.
Bringing the Broadway sensation to Las Vegas is something almost unheard of five years ago, according to Martin.
“It’s a big deal for Las Vegas," he said, "Not only the fact that we got it but the fact that Broadway has enough confidence in the Smith Center and Las Vegas as a market to say that they’re going to pin their first tour on this great city.”
Synder said when he talks to performers after a show they all comment on how beautiful the facility is and how well they are treated. He said that speaks to the effort made by everyone, including the craftsman who went above and beyond to make the building a Southern Nevada treasure.
“It speaks to the fact that the Smith Center is a very special building," Synder, "It was done at a very special time and it will forever change Las Vegas in a positive way.”
The Smith Center celebrates its fifth birthday tonight by throwing itself a music-filled party featuring Broadway stars Adam Kantor and Betsy Wolfe. More information on the event and ticketing can be found here.
Myron Martin, Smith Center President and CEO; Don Snyder, Smith Center board chairman.
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