Durham’s DPAC awaits the first guests of the 2017 SunTrust Broadway series, who will inaugurate the new carpeting and seats installed this summer in the 9-year-old performance venue. The $1.8 million project wrapped up this week. Ken A. Huth Contributed
Durham’s DPAC awaits the first guests of the 2017 SunTrust Broadway series, who will inaugurate the new carpeting and seats installed this summer in the 9-year-old performance venue. The $1.8 million project wrapped up this week. Ken A. Huth Contributed

Durham County

What will $1.8M buy the DPAC? Better seats and many more years of wear and tear

By Tammy Grubb

tgrubb@heraldsun.com

September 15, 2017 11:36 AM

UPDATED September 20, 2017 04:41 PM

DURHAM

The Durham Performing Arts Center has rolled out the red carpet to guests again after wrapping up a $1.8 million upgrade this summer.

Over 3.5 million guests have attended concerts and other performances at the downtown Durham theater since 2008, DPAC officials said. That meant a lot of wear and tear on the carpet and seating areas.

Workers began removing 90 percent of the building’s old carpeting and 2,712 seats on Aug. 7 – marking the latest phase of more than $15 million in upgrades, renovations and capital replacement projects planned over the next 15 years.

Roughly 65,000 square feet of carpet was installed in the lobbies and seating area, followed by the new seats. The work was completed this week ahead of the Sept. 26 start of the SunTrust Broadway season opener, “Circus 1903.”

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The next phase of the long-term project will improve the backstage areas, including the dressing rooms, and overhaul the mechanical systems, said Todd Tingler, construction project manager for the city of Durham. That work could take three to four years, he said, with most happening during DPAC’s annual slowdown in August and September.

'Hamilton' coming to DPAC in 2018

Scenes from the original cast of "Hamilton", the Broadway smash musical that is coming to Durham's DPAC in 2018.

The city owns the $48 million theater operated by Nederlander and Professional Facilities Management. DPAC earned more than $6.3 million in the 2015-16 season, roughly $1.8 million of which was set aside for debt service, maintenance, building improvements and any revenue shortfalls.

“These improvements are the best kind of investment in DPAC, ones that will continue to beautify the theater, while enhancing the comfort of the millions of show and concert guests season after season to come,” Mayor Bill Bell said in a news release. “For the last nine years, the shows always have been top-notch, and our guests deserve no less than a beautiful and welcoming facility in which to enjoy them.”

Summer rankings put DPAC among the country’s top venues – and among the top 10 worldwide. The theater reported selling more than 240,000 tickets in the first part of 2017, making it No. 6 in the world for theater-sized venues, according to concert-industry trade magazine Pollstar.

Pollstar also reported ranking DPAC No. 4 among U.S. theaters in terms of attendance.

The city of Durham paid for the recent upgrades using money generated by a facility fee on each DPAC ticket sold.

The changes include new fade-resistant carpet – blended from two shades of red and woven on a velvet loom – and Allegro model seats, DPAC officials said.

It took two years browsing hundreds of carpet samples and dozens of seat models to choose the right products for the job, DPAC officials said. The final selections were American-made: Michigan-based Irwin Seating provides seating to 95 percent of New York’s Broadway Theaters, while Bloomsburg Carpet Industries in Pennsylvania installs most theater carpeting around the country.

It’s nylon with a synthetic backing, instead of a wool weave, Tingler said, and was manufactured using a solution-dyed process that infuses individual filaments with pigment. Both the new carpet and the seats, which have higher backs and thicker cushions, were treated with a stain-resistant application, he said.

The original carpet wasn’t stain resistant, and the fibers broke down under continued cleaning, he said.

The new carpet “won’t be affected by the sun. It won’t fade. You could spill just about anything on it and clean it up, and it won’t affect the carpet at all,” Tingler said. “We can continually clean it, and it won’t affect the backing, so it’s a much better carpet.”

Becoming the Grinch at DPAC

Watch a time lapse of Philip Bryan as he prepares with makeup artist Steven Young for the opening night of Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas! The Musical in his dressing room at DPAC November 29, 2016 in Durham, N.C.

News & Observer file photo

Tammy Grubb: 919-829-8926, @TammyGrubb