Park City Institute cancels summer concerts as Eccles Center to remain closed until Utah enters green phase

Park City Institute has canceled its 2020 Big Stars, Bright Nights summer concert series because the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Center for the Performing Arts, located at Park City High School, will remained closed to outside programming until Gov. Gary Herbert initiates the green, “New Normal” phase of his Utah Leads Together 2.0 plan for the state’s recovery from the pandemic.
Courtesy of the Park City Institute

The Park City Institute has canceled its Big Stars, Bright Nights summer concert series due to COVID-19 restrictions.

The performances, which would have been held at the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Center for the Performing Arts at Park City High School, were taken off the books after the Park City School District indicated the venue will remain closed as a result of the coronavirus. Superintendent Dr. Jill Gildea said in an email to The Park Record that the Eccles Center won’t be open to large groups until Gov. Gary Herbert initiates the green, “New Normal” phase of his Utah Leads Together 2.0 plan for the state’s recovery from the pandemic.

The green phase would see all schools and businesses open and restrictions on large gatherings removed, as outlined in the plan. Utah is currently in the orange, “Moderate Risk” phase, which limits gatherings to 20 people. The next phase, “Low Risk,” would limit gatherings to 50 people.

The Summit County Health Department has also enacted its own public health order that, among other restrictions, prohibits gatherings of more than 20 people. Summit County officials have said they do not anticipate gatherings of more than 50 will be allowed until next year.

“We’re following local health department public health orders,” Gildea said. Gildea said she and her staff will reevaluate the direction from the governor and local health officials every 14 days to be sure the school district is in alignment with state and local health orders.

“We are certainly hopeful that we return to full health as a community, county, state and nation sooner than later,” she said.

Ari Ioannides, who took the helm of the Park City Institute as its executive director earlier this year, said Gildea’s announcement, while not surprising, was still devastating.

“It’s been a real challenge for us, because we were doing a good job forming a great plan to bring back the institute back to vibrancy and be a major player for the performing arts in the city,” Ioannides said. “But perspective, a lot of people are going through a lot worse.”

Park City Institute had planned 12 summer shows that included Gretchen Wilson, Black Violin, Upstate and former Styx vocalist and keyboardist Dennis DeYoung, according to Ioannides.

“After COVID came in, I thought we might be able to get back in through mitigation in late July, and fill 40% of the theater,” he said. “I wasn’t counting on it, but we had a plan based on social distancing protocols with spaced seating and rigorous cleaning and staggered entry.”

Ioannides doesn’t fault the district for keeping the Eccles Center closed.

“(Gildea) has to look out for her students and staff,” he said. “Closing down the theater for performances makes total sense from her perspective, and it’s not her fault COVID’s here.”

The continuing closure of the Eccles Center also brings up questions about other events, such as the Peggy Bergmann Ballet West Academy’s annual “The Nutcracker” in December.

Additionally, the Sundance Film Festival uses the 1,000-plus-seat Eccles Center as its premier venue for film screenings in January.

The Sundance Institute indicated in a statement to The Park Record that festival organizers are monitoring health requirements as they plan the 2021 event..

“As we plan for the 2021 Sundance Film Festival we are coordinating with health authorities at local, state and the federal level and considering all measures to ensure the safety of the Sundance community, including social distancing in theaters and other public spaces and increased sanitation practices,” the statement said.

In March, after COVID-19 caused the cancellation of Sundance Film Festival events in London and Hong Kong, Sundance Institute chief financial officer and managing director Betsy Wallace told The Park Record that her staff was planning as if the Utah festival is going to occur in a live atmosphere.

Ioannides is working on the Park City Institute’s 2020-21 fall and winter Main Stage season.

He has been rescheduling presentations by T-Bone Burnett, Stephanie Land, Complexions Dance and National Geographic Live! With Nizar Ibrahim that were canceled a few weeks ago due to the coronavirus.

“Stephanie Land was slated for Sept. 26, and that’s not going to happen, so as of now, I don’t know when we’re going to be able to go on,” he said. “Right now we’re still pulling up contracts, but we have to be able to cancel with no penalties.”

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