By JESSICA WETZLER
Daily News-Record 10/26/19
BRIDGEWATER — The candy is stocked, seats are set for use and the popcorn machine is ready to pop for the Sipe Center’s grand opening Nov. 1.
In a week, guests will be greeted by a custom-made clapperboard featuring the multipurpose theater’s logo. With treats in hand, attendees will enter the Holton Theater to watch The Hunts — an indie-alternative- folk rock band from Chesapeake.
“People can expect a full house with a performance that would appeal to a wide group,” said Alex Wilmer, assistant town manager of Bridgewater.
Sipe Center has been in the works since the end of 2017 when the town demolished a nearly 140-year-old building on the property at the intersection of North Main and College streets due to public-safety concerns. Deciding whether to invest in an expansion at the Bridgewater Community Center or a new space led to Bob Holton, assistant town manager for public works, suggesting the space be used for a theater.
“He was the spark that kind of got this going,” Wilmer said, adding the theater is named after Holton.
The $1.3 million theater has 149 seats along with . ve handicap seats.
Town Manager Jay Litten said in a previous interview with the Daily New-Record that the theater seats were the same as those inside a Lincoln Navigator.
With only a few days until opening night, Wilmer said there were only six tickets remaining.
“We already have two shows sold out and most of the others are getting close,” he said. “People are buying tickets for December 2020 … that shows the amount of excitement here in the town.”
Wilmer said ticket sales have been steady since going live Aug. 1, saying the $125 flex pass, which allows guests to attend five events during the 2019-20 season, is the most popular.
The center also is home to a movie theater showing second-run films three to four evenings a week with tickets at $5. On the second Tuesday of the month, Town Council will hold its meetings in the space, with the first scheduled for Nov. 12.
During council’s last meeting at the Bridgewater Community Center, council members unanimously voted in favor of supporting Sipe Center Live, a nonprofit designed to bring top-quality acts using as little tax money as possible by selling seat dedications for $500.
“We have already sold 16 nameplates to be placed on seats,” Wilmer said.
Those worried about parking can pick from 130 parking spaces within two blocks of the Sipe Center. Wilmer said there are 41 spaces available at BB& T after bank hours, 32 spaces at Bridgewater Presbyterian Church when there is no church service and street parking. Those who need handicap parking can park at one of the two spaces behind the theater.
There are still no plans to use the ongoing alcohol license the General Assembly passed earlier this year, but Wilmer said it could be revisited next summer.
From the open-floor plan lobby to the mezzanine towering over it, Wilmer said his favorite part was the size of the theater.
“I think we sized the theater just right,” he said. “We have a nice intimate space that brings the ‘wow’ factor.”
Wilmer hopes the theater brings life back to downtown Bridgewater, inviting residents to grab dinner and then see a show.
“For years downtown has been quiet in the evening … we are hoping this will encourage people to come out,” Wilmer said. “I think it will be a good draw regionally.”