TAMPA — Seats closest to the stage at the David A. Straz Jr. Center for the Performing Arts often cost significantly more than the ones in the mezzanine. But they all wear down just the same.
Workers this week are replacing seats in Morsani Hall. A Hillsborough County capital improvement grant paid for the seating overhaul, the first since the venue was built in 1987. Work goes in two phases. In the current phase, workers are switching out about 1,400 seats in the orchestra and mezzanine levels with new ones. Then next summer, another 700 in the balcony and gallery levels will be renovated.
The new seats will maintain their burgundy color, but will be more comfortable and last a long time, said Judith Lisi, the Straz Center's president. The venue didn't make the change to promote the much anticipated tour stop of Hamilton in the 2018-2019 season, so much as to meet an existing need, Lisi said,
Patrons tip-toeing past other people's knees before show time might not have noticed that need. But from the stage, in an empty house, anyone could see it.
"You could see every stage of red, depending on usage," Lisi said. "Some had more or a yellow tone. Some of the springs had gone. Now they all look exactly the same."
Leaders replaced the 1,042 seats in the adjacent Ferguson Hall three years ago. The Straz still envisions other improvements, including more food and beverage operations and a solution to its parking shortages, Lisi said.
The first musical to break in the new seats, Motown: The Musical, runs Aug. 8-13.
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