Not every performing arts center plays as important a role in community togetherness as The Sandler Center in Virginia Beach, Virginia. Open since November 2007, this 1,300-seat theatre has helped define a new downtown area for Virginia Beach and is used for everything from Broadway shows, touring dance companies, and rock concerts (some under the banner of Live Nation), to high-school graduations and local dance recitals. In this case, the addition of a performing arts center has truly created a lively street scene in the downtown area, where it serves as the centerpiece of a bigger urban planning project.

The design team included architects Philip Johnson/Alan Ritchie (design architect) and CMSS (architects of record), and Clancy & Theys Construction Company, with Auerbach Pollock Friedlander serving as theatre consultants, and Kirkegaard Associates as acousticians. The budget for the project was $46.7 million.

“The theatre has a great feeling,” says Don Guyton, a senior associate and the project manager for Auerbach Pollock Friedlander. “It is quite intimate and feels smaller than its 1,300 seats. The room design and overall building planning are excellent.”

Adjustable acoustics help this multi-purpose theatre cope with the many styles of performance that come through the door. “There is a beautiful, undulating ceiling,” says Guyton, “and the walls are covered with a grillage that hides all the acoustic banners. You are not really aware of the banners moving in or out, they are essentially hidden, and the same mustard color of the walls.”

The traditional horseshoe shape of the auditorium was crafted to have excellent sightlines, definitely a plus for dance and theatre performances. While traditional, the theatre design also features clean modern lines, with seating on a main orchestra level, a mezzanine, and balcony. In addition to this main theatre, called Performance Hall, the center also features the 2,400 square foot Miller Studio Theatre, which doubles as a rehearsal room. There is also an outdoor performance plaza.

The Sandler Center was recently recognized with an Award for Design Excellence by the Hampton Roads Chapter of the AIA.

Technical information:

Performance Hall
Theatrical Rigging System
Manufactured and installed by Texas Scenic Company

  • 48 Single purchase counterweight linesets
  • 2 Single purchase counterweight tab battens
  • Motorized fire curtain
  • Multicable management systems

Theatrical Drapery
Manufactured and installed by Texas Scenic Company

  • House curtain, rigged to bi-part and fly, 66’ x 34’
  • Valance, 60’ x 12’
  • 14 Masking legs
  • 6 Masking borders
  • Cycloramas
  • 2 sharkstooth scrims, black and white
  • Black Traveler curtain

Variable Acoustics
Manufactured and installed by Texas Scenic Company

  • 32 double layer wool serge banners varying in length from 10’ to 31’ on motorized roll drops
  • 11 manually operated traveler curtains

Orchestra Enclosure
Manufactured and installed by Wenger Corporation

  • 10 towers varying in height from 32’ to 26’
  • 3 ceilings approximately 9’ x 50’
  • 1 Tower transport cart

Orchestra Pit Lift
Manufactured and installed by Gala Systems

  • 575 sq. ft. orchestra lift with 6 HD9 Spriralift columns, 12’6” travel at 6 fpm.

Adjustable Proscenium
Manufactured and installed by Texas Scenic Company

  • 2 steel framed rolling wall panels, 30’ x 12’

Theatrical Lighting System
Manufactured and Installed by ETC
6 Sensor SR48+ dimmer racks

  • 6 Sensor CEM+ control electronics modules
  • 560 2.4kW sensor dimmers
  • 9 6.0kW sensor dimmers
  • 1 Smartswitch SS-241P 24 single pole DMX controlled relay panel
  • 1 ELTS 1220-120 emergency lighting transfer system
  • Unison architectural system for house and work lighting control
  • 2 custom Ethernet patch panels
  • 3 Powerdesine 24-port power injectors
  • 3 Linksys 24-port Ethernet switches
  • 1 Powerware 5125 Uninterruptible Power System
  • 22 3Com net tap stations
  • 6 ETC Net2 2-port DMX tour nodes
  • 1 ETC Net2 full function node
  • 1 ETC Net2 Video node
  • 1 ETC Net2 DMX node
  • 1 Congo Control Console
  • 4 LCD flat screen monitors

Fixed Audience Seating
Manufactured and installed by Series International Seating

  • 1193 Series Academy WB WS seats;
    679 in the orchestra and parterre, 172 in the 1st balcony, 282 in the 2nd balcony, 60 removable on the orchestra pit lift

Loose Audience Seating
Manufactured by Chairmasters, Inc.

  • 68 custom wood frame chairs

House Audio:
Yamaha PM5D Digital Console
Meyer Sound Loudspeakers and subs
Amplifiers: QSC CX 2 and 4 Channel
Communication: Dressing room paging system by Atlas Sound with room controls; master control at Stage Managers Station (down stage right)
Clear-com production communication with 4-channel microprocessor controlled stations.

Stage Dimensions:
Proscenium Width: 45' — 0" minimum, 55' — 0" maximum (Adjustable)
Proscenium Height: 30' — 6"
Depth from Plaster Wall: Approx. 49'
Left Wing Space: 19' x 45'
Right Wing Space: 19' x 45'

Miller Studio Theatre
Theatrical Rigging System
Manufactured and installed by Texas Scenic Company

  • 2260 square foot pipe grid hung on 5’6” centers

Variable Acoustics
Manufactured and installed by Texas Scenic Company

  • 2 manually operated traveler curtains
  • 28 canvas acoustic reflectors

Theatrical Lighting System
Manufactured and Installed by ETC

  • 1 Sensor SR48+ dimmer rack
  • 1 Sensor CEM+ control electronics modules
  • 48 2.4kW sensor dimmers
  • ETC Smartlink architectural system for house lighting control
  • Express 125 control console
  • 2 LCD flat screen monitors