What some said couldn't be done has been done and is nearing completion.

The Hanifl Performing Arts Center is not yet open to the public, but a small group tour last week offered a peek at the $9 million, state-of-the-art facility.

A member of the tour, Jim Berry, was on the board of Lakeshore Players Theatre when the idea for a new facility was conceived. He admitted being brought to tears the first time he stood on the new stage.

“People said it's 'too big,' it's not possible to raise that much money,” Berry recalled. “That was summer of 2016. Then construction guys like Gary Hook and Fred Paul stepped up and it was magic. Seeing it now, I can't believe it. This is a true performing arts center.”

Berry, who also chairs the White Bear Lake Planning Commission, and his wife Deb were part of the Feb. 28 tour led by Lakeshore Players Managing Director Rob Thomas. Most areas of the facility are named for individuals or families procuring those rights through the capital campaign. The spacious lobby, for example, is named for Sally Ordway Irvine, one of the founding members of the theater, which started in 1953. Irvine helped purchase the old Presbyterian Church in 1959 that became its home. The building burned down in 1969 and Lakeshore moved to its current location, also an old church, on Stewart Avenue.

Theater seating is designed to be comfy with an extra inch of padding added to the bottom and an ergonomic back. Four transfer seats are located on row ends to make it easier for those in wheelchairs to slide into a theater seat. There are also two-person seats that will be sold as one or two seats.

There will be a wall for hanging work by local artists in the hallway, and the Steinway piano has its own room. The White Bear Center for the Arts is next door so Thomas said they hope to collaborate for the in-house art gallery.

Also on the tour was the St. Cloud author of several children's books. Wendy Muhlhauser, aka Sissy Mary Sue, who is working with Children's Performing Arts on their fall play. The performance will be based on the author's latest self-published book, “Jelly Beans the Cheetah and Hope.” Proceeds from her book help support H2O for Life, the White Bear nonprofit founded by Patty Hall, and the Cheetah Conservation Fund.

Naming opportunities still available:

Mainstage Theatre naming rights have been procured by Si and Vicki Ford's foundation, Osilas. Still available: The Black Box Theatre for $750,000, the Steinway piano room for $150,000, the wardrobe room for $25,000 and the dressing rooms at $25,000 each.

Theater seats are also available. For $750, a donor's name is engraved on a brass nameplate attached to the seat. At last count there were 96 seats left.

Fire causes exterior damage

A Performing Arts Crawl is planned April 14 that will be open to the public. More info will be coming on the event.

There was a mishap while the building is under construction but it will not delay the opening.

On Sunday, Feb. 18, a fire caused about $100,000 in damage.

White Bear Lake Fire Chief Greg Peterson reported that an exterior ladder fell over and struck a gas line connected to an air conditioning unit on top of the roof. The gas leak ignited and burned the unit and part of the roof in an area of the building still under construction.

The fire was noticed by a passerby about 7 p.m., Peterson said. The ladder likely fell over due to wind. No one was working at the center at the time.

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