KENNEWICK -- The Toyota Center is getting a new show stage that officials say will offer a much more intimate entertainment venue, and it will be called Windermere Theatre.
The new 80-by-40-foot stage will have new curtains and improved acoustics that will create a more cozy theater setting, said Corey Pearson, executive director of the Three Rivers campus, which includes the Toyota Center.
Pearson announced the new stage and the new partnership with Windermere on Thursday.
"When you come to the Toyota Center you'll have a completely new feeling," he said.
The new Windermere Theatre will move the stage from the previous location in front of the Zamboni entrance on the west end to the north side directly across from the suites, Pearson said. It will accommodate about 2,100 showgoers.
The Windermere Theatre will make its debut Wednesday when the 2009-10 Broadway and More Series begins with The Rat Pack is Back.
Windermere Real Estate Tri-Cities is making a "substantial" contribution for the naming rights for five years, Pearson said. He said Windermere also has an option to extend those rights another five years.
Sponsorship is an opportunity for Windermere to support the arts and build partnerships, said Jeff Thompson, co-owner of Windermere Real Estate Tri-Cities. He said it allows Windermere to support the community that supports the business while also enhancing the quality of life in the Tri-Cities.
The enhanced Toyota Center may be able to support more creative collaborations using the talent at Washington State University and Columbia Basin College, Thompson said, adding, "We are excited to be a part of it."
Pearson said Windermere's support builds on efforts by the city of Kennewick to make the Tri-Cities' premier performance venue a top-notch facility that will attract high-class shows and performers.
The city recently provided more than $500,000 to make improvements at the center, which include a new rigging system and replacing some of the center's plastic seats with plush seats with cup holders.
The rigging system, which cost about $250,000, makes it easier to change the stage configuration for shows. That will allow the center to offer shows that couldn't be accommodated previously in the space, Pearson said.
Kennewick Mayor Tom Moak said the improvements will help the Toyota Center present entertainment shows in the best possible way.
It also will help market the Tri-Cities as a great place to live, shop and have fun, Moak said. "What happens here translates into business for the community."
-- Pratik Joshi: 582-1541; firstname.lastname@example.org