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City chooses seats for Mars

POSTED: November 14, 2013 7:58 p.m.

The doors for the Mars Theatre are still a few months away from opening, but the seats for the venue have been selected.


Springfield City Council members chose the seats for the edifice, which sits adjacent to city hall and has undergone an extensive renovation, opting to buy 250 seats at $405 each. The final tab is $101,250.


“This will get the ball rolling to actually provide seats,” said Mayor Barton Alderman.


City Manager Brett Bennett said there are three U.S. companies that make stadium and theater seats, and more such vendors are foreign. Prices range from $300 to “as high as you want to go,” he said. Council members picked the versions offered by Irwin Seating County, which has a facility in Eatonton.


“The seats are not cheap,” Bennett added.


Bennett, city director of cultural affairs Tommy Deadwyler and Carmie McDonald of the Fox Theatre Institute emphasized the need for quality seating and a comfortable experience for Mars guests.


“One of the things we thought was important was to have a comfortable experience,” Deadwyler said. “We have to give ourselves legroom.”


The chairs will be 22 inches wide and there will be 40 inches of room from chair back to chair back.


McDonald, the Fox Theatre Institute’s program manager, said getting the chairs to fit in with the art deco look of the Mars also was essential.


“I feel it fits more with the style of the building,” she told council members. “You won’t have to reverse course. I think that will serve you best in the long-term.”


The city has spent so much time and money ensuring the lobby and bathrooms are top-notch, Bennett said, that putting in chairs of a lesser quality would be a disservice.


“I think it would hurt going after inexpensive seats,” he said.

Bennett and others have visited other theatres throughout Georgia to get a feel for what they offer in terms of a spectator atmosphere. The Georgia Southern University Performing Arts Center, for instance, has very tight quarters for its audience, Bennett pointed out, and the university president’s wife, who was involved in the renovation of the Emma Kelly Theater in Statesboro, took notice.


“But they’re still a little tight,” he said. “We’ve gone just a little bit further.”


Getting the seats right is important, Bennett continued, because it may lead to a guest determining whether to return for another event.


“It can make a difference if they are not comfortable,” he said.


Deadwyler said they are continuing to work on a layout plan for the seats and an ultimate number of seats for the Mars.


“I would like to have 299,” he said. “But it won’t fit into that space.”


Deadwyler said they may go with two aisles down either side, and there will be handicapped seating. They also are looking at the sight lines each seat will have, and the final layout may be similar to an arc.


“We’re doing everything we can to get as many chairs as possible, while keeping the legroom,” he said.


Renovating older seats is 60 percent of the cost of a new one, Bennett said, “and you still have an old seat.”


To prevent light from outside interfering with a movie screen, a sound booth and wall will be constructed.


As part of the seats purchase, the city also will be buying 50 yards of material to recover seats that are damaged, should the company no longer make that same model of chair. Delivery of the chairs should take about 100 days. Deadwyler added they will be selling labels for the chairs and are trying to find ways to generate revenue from the seats beyond ticket sales.


“We’ll be doing everything we can to recoup a majority of that money,” he said.

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