"I go to towns where there are a million people that don't have anything like this. This is a beautiful theater."
Bowling Green, KY -- It took 12 long years from conception to completion, with detractors saying it would never succeed and would cost taxpayers money. It's the Southern Kentucky Performing Arts Center, known as SKyPAC.
During that 12-year process even some of the creators of SKyPAC sometimes doubted it would ever happen. But now, even SKyPAC officials can't believe how successful its first year was.
"From March to June, how can things get any better? And they just did!"
Former SKyPAC Program and Marketing Director Jann Zarr was here from the beginning. He knows the obstacles SKyPAC overcame to get to this point.
"We had 90% return on season subscriptions," said Zarr. "That's unheard of! So the community has really welcomed us, amazingly welcomed us."
But why did the community turn out? Cathy Rigby who starred in Peter Pan here, says because the residents of south central Kentucky truly appreciate the quality of artists appearing at SKyPAC.
"Everybody just seems to really get in the shows and participate as an audience," said Rigby, "and the energy that comes back is wonderful."
Rigby, a former U.S. Olympic gymnastic star, saw first-hand the excitement in the eyes of the children who attended the show.
"And then you have their parents who are watching their children watch," she said. "It's a memory-making experience."
But how does SKyPAC attract performers like Cathy Rigby, Willie Nelson, Jack Hanna, and Jerry Seinfeld? They say it's because of the theater and the staff.
"I do about 80 to 100 theaters a year,' said Jack Hanna, "and they said this was a brand new theater, so when I pulled up I said, 'Boy!' I couldn't picture how big the theater was. When you walk in here it's a magnificent theater. I go to towns where there are a million people that don't have anything like this. This is a beautiful theater."
"And you have people who are really passionate, enthusiastic, and artistic and know what's out there," added Rigby, "and if everybody works together, you're gonna have the patrons come in."
And they are coming in, even the ones who were skeptical about SKyPAC.
"I gave them a tour of the building," said SKyPAC Executive Director Tom Tomlinson, "and half-way through the tour this woman walked up and handed me a check for $2,500, and said, 'There's more where that came from' so."
And Zarr agreed, "Every time somebody new comes in who may have been a naysayer, they are totally blown away, totally blown away."
So SKyPAC's first year was a resounding success. But can they keep it going? They say they can. In fact, they told me they're adding an extra performance to all five Broadway shows coming this second season, so twice as many people can see them as before. Three of those shows are brand new: "Memphis," "Rock of Ages," and "Bring It On."
And with word spreading throughout the entertainment world about how much artists like to perform here, the sky just may be the limit for SKyPAC.
For more information on SKyPAC and the shows that are coming, click on the link below.