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Alberta Bair to undergo renovations in downtown Billings; symphony to relocate

Posted at 2:19 PM, Mar 20, 2019
and last updated 2019-03-20 19:08:43-04

BILLINGS – The Alberta Bair Theater will close for renovation and expansion, forcing The Billings Symphony Orchestra to find a new performance space.

“In 1987, the founding members did a great job renovating the theater,” said Jan Detrich, Alberta Bair executive director. “But it’s been 31 years. So it’s time for new lighting equipment, new sound equipment. It’s seen a lot of wear and tear.”

The Alberta Bair Theater will receive a much-needed facelift and will close its doors this April.

This renovation addresses a slew of theater features: new stage rigging, new sound equipment, acoustic treatment, more restrooms, new ticket offices, new dressing rooms, an expanded lobby, and a long-awaited elevator.

These upgrades are also accompanied by an expansion. The theater will expand the concession/lobby area onto the sidewalk along North Broadway. New dressing rooms will also be added in another expansion that will take up the sidewalk on Third Street West.

The Alberta Bair Theater is expected to reopen in September 2020.

This renovation is displacing The Billings Symphony Orchestra, which found a new home at the Lincoln Center theater. The group actually has historical ties to the Lincoln Center. In the 1950s, around the time of the symphony’s inception, the group used to play on that very stage. It’s something of a homecoming for the symphony.

“People are actually excited,” said Ignacio Barron, Billings Symphony Orchestra executive director. “I hear stories from people when they were kids, ‘I used to come here to school, or I used to perform here,’ So, I think It’s a great atmosphere which is coming up from this change.”

The Lincoln Center theater holds advantages over the Alberta Bair: More seating, a bigger stage, and standing space on the balcony to get creative with. Patrons and board members are happy with the venue.

“I think the venue here at the Lincoln Center is going to really help support the Billings Symphony,” said John Baber, a symphony subscriber. “I think it is going to be a wonderful place.”

Lynn Marquardt, a member of the Billings Symphony’s board, agrees.

“I think it’s going to work out beautifully. And the parking will be equally good, and I think that we couldn’t find a place that would be more convenient.”

The Alberta Bair Theater will still be bringing entertainment to Billings during the renovation process. Keep an eye on their calendar for events at Petro Hall, and the Lincoln Center theater.

Reporting by Mitch Lagge for MTN News