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Impressive UCCS Ent Center for the Arts opens with special gala for 800

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Photo by Linda Navarro, The Gazette

By Linda Navarro, The Gazette

"Let the magic begin," she said. And indeed, it did.

The dream had come true for University of Colorado at Colorado Springs Chancellor Emerita Pam Shockley-Zalabak with a formal opening night gala in the state-of-the-art UCCS Ent Center for the Arts. 

It had been in the dream works since at least 2001, in the working stage since 2013 and is a spectacular glass-walled $70 million hillside center for the university's Department of Visual and Performing Arts, five venues, the Gallery of Contemporary Art, TheatreWorks and music and dance.

Shockley-Zalabak, for whom the center's 774-seat theater and concert hall is named, said the 92,000-square-foot complex "has truly been taking something to the possible that we had been told was impossible." 

The 800 guests at the sold-out Feb. 3 gala exemplified the collaborative effort it had taken. Money for the center came from the university, Ent, the Colorado legislature, CU's Office of the President and probably $10 million from private donors and foundations. 

The Ent complex fundraising campaign had been spearheaded by sparkplugs Sally and Kyle Hybl, who also led a $1.5 million drive to name the theater in honor of beloved former chancellor Shockley-Zalabak. It had taken just two months to accomplish, they revealed. During the gala, it was announced that Feb. 3 had been proclaimed Kyle and Sally Hybl Day by the governor for their multi-year work helping make the Ent Center a reality.

CU President Bruce Benson called the new complex "a game changer." Said Chancellor Venkat Reddy, "It reminds me of a stallion ready to take off." Reddy and UCCS Presents Executive Director Drew Martorella called the opening an emotional evening as they thought of the late TheatreWorks Director Murray Ross. Said the chancellor looking skyward, "Murray, as you can see, your dream has come true today." 

Donors, sponsors, those in the arts and education, UCCS staff and students, those who designed and built the center, CU regents and community leaders were treated to the gala evening exploring the venues and learning about all those for whom areas are named. They cheered the ribbon-cutting at GOCA and heard an impressive Aaron Copland "Lincoln Portrait" by the Colorado Springs Philharmonic directed by Josep Caballé-Domenech. Some in the audience were nudging each other and exchanging glances when the tough words from Lincoln's day narrated by Steve Wallace seemed to touch current political events. 

The Ent Center opening, said Martorella, is "one of those moments in our city's history," and added, to cheers and laughter, "and now come back ... buy tickets ... so much is going to happen!" 

Gala sponsors were the Bee Vradenburg Foundation, Pino and Suzy Bassani, the Cultural Office of the Pikes Peak Region, KCME and Adventure Culture Fund, Colorado Springs Philharmonic, The Gazette, Winslow BMW and Lee Spirits Co.

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