For years, music fans in the Flathead Valley have clamored for a large venue that could attract and host big national acts, the type of performers who travel to Missoula and Bozeman but rarely stray far from the Interstate 90 corridor.
But now local music fans may get their wishes granted with the construction of the new 50,000-square-foot College Center at Flathead Valley Community College that will feature a performance hall, outdoor amphitheater and more. The facility is part of an $18 million expansion currently underway at the college campus in Kalispell.
“The goal is to have something that serves both our students and the community,” said FVCC President Jane Karas. “The community has been very supportive (of this effort).”
To date, the school has raised $17.2 million for the project and is just $800,000 away from its goal. The College Center is expected to cost $15 million and will include two basketball courts, an art gallery and other learning spaces. The school is also building a new library and learning center. Once the money has been raised, construction could begin as early as this fall, with an anticipated opening in 2021.
Currently, the largest space on campus is in the Arts and Technology Building, which can handle about 300 people, Karas said, limiting the size of events. The new College Center would be able to hold upwards of 1,000 people, enough to handle a major concert or college graduation. While building a space conducive to education is the primary goal of the college, a side benefit will be having a space that can attract big names in music year round. If the upcoming Under the Big Sky Music & Arts Festival in Whitefish is any indication, there is a local market for major acts.
“Hopefully people who live here won’t have to travel so far to see a nationally known act,” Karas said.
The college is partnering with the Glacier Symphony and Chorale, which will call the College Center its home. Music Director and Conductor John Zoltek said the FVCC facility will be a huge improvement over the symphony’s current situation: bouncing around the valley from venue to venue.
“We’re really excited,” he said. “It will be a great change for the symphony.”
The Glacier Symphony and Chorale already attracts big names in classical music to the Flathead Valley, and Zoltek said a new space that can pack a crowd would help get even bigger names to play with the group.
Zoltek said the symphony is working with FVCC on the design of the indoor music hall to ensure it has the optimal acoustics for classical music.
While Zoltek said he is primarily focused on how the new space will impact the symphony, he has no doubt that it will have a significant impact on the valley’s music scene in general.
“This is a dream come true for the Glacier Symphony and Chorale,” he said. “But it will also change the complexion of music here in the valley.”