This year BR&P celebrates our 40th anniversary! Being in business since 1978 means we’ve covered a lot of ground (no pun intended) over the years. That’s why we’ve decided to highlight our earlier projects throughout the year. This month, we look back to Juanita K. Hammons Hall Performing Arts Center in Springfield, MO, completed in 1992.
An Idea is Born
The idea for a world-class performing arts center in Springfield began in the 1960’s. The dream was a state-of-the-art facility that would serve the needs of Springfield and the surrounding region. However, it wasn’t fully realized until a push occurred in the 1980’s.
Dr. Marshall Gordon, the president of Southwest Missouri State University (now Missouri State University) at that time, had been in discussions with Springfield-based hotel mogul, entrepreneur and philanthropist John Q. Hammons for some time. Hammons was a believer in the importance of arts in the community. He managed properties in 34 states and noticed on his travels that the cities that were “alive” had strong civic development downtown and an excellent performing arts center.
“Marshall was a dynamic leader in that he was always trying to grow the University and to make it more attractive for potential students, better for existing students and a big contributor to the economic health of the community,” says Geoffrey Butler, BR&P Founding Partner and Architect who worked on the project. “Mr. Hammons was always there to help support his plans.”
Eventually, the potential for a performing arts center on campus came to the forefront and knowing that the community needed one, Gordon took it on as something the University needed to do. He convinced the Board of Regents to pursue the effort, and with the financial backing of Mr. Hammons, they were able to implement the vision.
Credit: Missouri State University Photo Services. Featured on SpringfieldMo.org
Gordon was keen to support local businesses.
“He felt that local design professionals were just as competent as architects and engineers who happened to live in bigger cities,” explains Butler. BR&P had been working with Missouri State for several years on other projects and had been very supportive of the University. Butler said, “When the project gained traction and they needed to select architects to do the project, we naturally were interested.”
At the time Pellham Phillips Hagerman and BR&P were two of the leading firms in the community. “Galen Pellham and I decided that both firms together were infinitely better than each of us alone and formed a joint venture for the interviews.” The team won the project. Marshall Gordon also made sure that special consultants were retained for acoustics and theatrical consulting. For further research, the design team toured the Performing Arts Center at Boise State University, which had been recently completed.
Juanita K. Hammons Hall Grand Opening – 1992
The project took four years from start to finish. “For almost two years the daily construction activities were a big part of my life, as I was the principal overseeing that work,” Butler explained, “Climbing up and down stairs and ladders all over the facility, monitoring the technical elements and watching the project costs were exhausting, but also exciting. That is why the grand opening was so much fun; it was the culmination of years of hard work.” The Hall celebrated its grand opening October 1992.
The 2,290-seat, three-level hall has a multipurpose stage with a movable orchestra shell and a large orchestra pit with a lift. The venue also contains a large rehearsal hall, dressing rooms for up to 200, a green room, cast lounge and administrative offices. The lobby features an expansive multi-level foyer and public and private reception areas.
Looking to the Future
For Butler, it was incredibly rewarding working on such an iconic building in the Springfield area. “The one reason we went after the job was that we wanted to be a part of something special. It was exciting to be selected. It was exciting to be involved in the design and construction, and it still makes me proud to have been a part of it.”
It’s fair to say that the Hall has made a lasting impact on the Springfield community. It acts as a bridge connecting the Missouri State campus to the downtown area, which has experienced a massive revitalization over the last thirty-five years. It has also impacted the art scene. The Hall has encouraged youth to get involved in the arts, and it has allowed the community to enjoy wonderful performances, which would not have come to Springfield, had it not been for the Hall.
Hammons Hall is home to many community groups including Missouri State University, the Springfield Symphony Orchestra and features recitals, plays, concerts and lectures. It also provides a temporary home to traveling Broadway productions including the highly anticipated Phantom of the Opera coming May 2018. Another Broadway favorite, The Lion King, is set to visit February 2019. “With this Hall, we are on the map for touring companies to schedule performances here simply because the Hall is set up to allow them to do their best,” says Butler.
Recently, Juanita K. Hammons Hall celebrated its 25th anniversary. “I was in the Hall recently for the Travis Tritt acoustic concert,” Butler explains, “I was still marveling at how well the Hall performed and remembering all the things we worked on to make it work.”
Also in the February Newsletter: BR&P Welcomes Sean Arkin & Bryan Williams to the Team Home2 Suites Springfield Opens Its Doors