The smash hit musical, “Hamilton,” is coming to the Koger Center for the Arts. That could mean good things for Columbia’s economy and the Koger Center. (Associated Press photo)
The Koger Center for the Arts has pulled back the curtain on some ongoing and upcoming advancements.
One of the most notable changes is the expansion of the center’s Broadway in Columbia series to allow for three nights of shows. Until now, the center only offered a two-night Broadway engagement.
The expansion has allowed the Koger Center to bring the wildly popular musical, “Hamilton,” to its stage. The production will run for a full two weeks early next year as the headliner of the 2023-2024 season.
“Being a three-night city means we might get better options for shows than we might have had before,” said Koger Center Marketing Director Chip Wade.
That’s because some shows wouldn’t play in a venue that didn’t guarantee them at least three nights.
Hosting more large-scale, high-profile shows could boost Columbia’s economy, according to experts in the tourism and performing arts fields.
A sold-out, two-night production at the Koger Center previously would have brought in about 4,512 theater-goers.
Hamilton could bring in between 32,000 and 34,000 people over the course of its 16-day run, Wade said.
He predicts the series will bring in people from all over the state.
“I fully expect all of those performances to sell out or come close to it,” Wade said.
The series lineup also includes the popular musicals “Come From Away,” “Mean Girls” and “My Fair Lady.”
The continued expansion of programs such as Broadway in Columbia is important to the city’s economy, said Rich Harrill, director of hospitality and tourism at the University of South Carolina.
Crowds traveling to see Broadway in Columbia performances will spend more at area businesses.
Hotels, restaurants, gas stations and retail stores will all benefit from the influx of visitors, Harrill said.
“The performing arts can be a major economic boost, and it often is,” said Patrick Kelly, a theater instructor at USC and an experienced off-Broadway performer.
A strong performing arts and entertainment presence is also vital to long-term economic development.
The arts make cities competitive when trying to attract skilled, well-educated professionals, Harrill said.
“It makes us a really sharp place to live, with citizens who are expanding the wealth base of the community with the things they’re doing,” Harrill said.
Being able to host shows of Hamilton’s caliber helps Columbia compete for those individuals.
Many anticipate that it will benefit the Koger Center, too.
Olivia Wamai, a USC theater major, has high expectations for Hamilton’s arrival.
“I think it’s gonna be huge,” she said. “It’s one of those musicals everyone knows at least a little bit about.”
She said she’s particularly excited for the money and publicity the Koger Center could receive.
The center already has seen an increase in funding and support in recent years that has allowed it to expand its programs and make renovations to its building, Kelly said.
Recently, the center introduced a “Live in the Lobby” program and built an outdoor stage to allow for performances outside the building.
It also recently began its Name-A-Seat program to replace uncomfortable and creaky seats in its Gonzales Hall, the main performance hall.
Donors get a plaque bearing their name on the seat they sponsor.
The Koger Center also will be introducing new ticketing software and an app to make buying and managing tickets easier.
The changes are bringing in more people, more frequently, Kelly said.
A sign in the Koger Center lobby shows the lineup for the current Broadway in Columbia series. It also teases that “Hamilton” will be shown during the upcoming 2023-2024 series. (Photo by Lauren Leibman)
One of the Koger Center’s most recent efforts to improve its building is the “Name-A-Seat” program, which aims to replace the seats in Gonzales Hall. (Photo by Lauren Leibman).
The Name-A-Seat Program relies on donations from the public. People can “name a seat” for a minimum of $250 for a balcony seat. Anyone who names a seat will get their name engraved on a plaque and fixed to the chair. (Photo by Lauren Leibman)
Patrons also can buy Grand Tier and Orchestra seats. Grand Tier seats cost $500 to replace and name. Orchestra seats cost $1,000. (Photo by Lauren Leibman)