Building During COVID? No Problem at Belmont University

An accelerated time-line, a challenging site, a pandemic and a natural disaster could not delay the building of Nashville’s newest performance and event venue.

The Fisher Center at Belmont University is the latest performing arts venue to be built in Nashville. Designed to reflect the opera houses of Europe, the Fisher Center completes a suite of spaces dedicated to the arts. The classically-designed, multi-purpose proscenium theatre provides the infrastructure for all types of performing arts events. Since October of 2021, it has hosted a variety of productions – acoustic and amplified, musical theatre, ballet and opera, from university productions to the Nashville Opera’s production of Wagner’s Das Rheingold. The space also includes back-of-house spaces, marshaling yard, loading dock and a grand lobby and recital halls totaling 15,000 square to accommodate receptions, smaller concerts, and other events.

The heart of the performing arts center is a 1719 seat, multi-purpose proscenium theatre. Modeled after the finest opera houses of Europe, the configuration itself was chosen primarily because it is ideal in form and volume to provide the infrastructure for all types of performing arts events including theatre, opera, acoustic and amplified music, and ballet.

This project, however, was beset with obstacles from the beginning. Challenged with a short timeline of four and half years instead of the typical six to seven years, an initial issue was that the site was not quite large enough, specifically for the requisite loading dock. A street was rerouted to the rear of the site, and the 60-foot feet of grade change from the front of the building to the back required that the loading dock be oriented toward the front of the building. Since these work areas are typically located at the rear of a building, the dock was concealed behind a limestone wall and beautifully crafted iron gates.

The COVID-19 pandemic hit, and a tornado tore through downtown Nashville at the height of the timeline for construction, but the project remained on schedule. Building continued at a slightly accelerated pace with multiple early-release bid packages, and a collaborative design and construction process. Back-up materials were selected as a precaution due to supply chain issues. And the Fisher Center was opened, on schedule, four years and five days from the start of the project to present Christmas at Belmont for a national television audience.

Read the full IAVM Magazine feature on the Fisher Center for the Performing Arts, here.