In yet another cruel stroke of rotten luck for Greensboro, the long-anticipated opening of the city’s new performing arts center will be anticipated for at least a little bit longer.
The Steven Tanger Center for the Performing Arts this week was scheduled to raise the curtain on a new era for arts and culture in Greensboro on Friday.
There was to be the first performance in the dazzling glass, steel and concrete facility in the heart of downtown — a concert by Josh Groban preceded by a VIP reception. Now there is not to be. Maybe for a long while. Also postponed were a Tony Bennett concert and VIP reception on Saturday, a Jay Leno performance on Sunday and Sally Field’s appearance on March 24 as part of Guilford College’s Bryan Series. A public open house, scheduled for March 29, also has been delayed. What is it they say about the best-laid plans?
The spiraling threat of COVID-19 — the coronavirus — has all but obliterated arts and entertainment calendars. The growing list of casualties — the ACC Tournament, NBA games, the NCAA Tournament (including first- and second-round games slated this week for the Greensboro Coliseum), high school championships, pro hockey games and baseball’s spring training — now includes the Tanger Center.
The delay was hardly a surprise. As health experts continued to repeat the mantra that “social distancing” was one important way to minimize the spread of the disease, it seemed likely. And when Gov. Roy Cooper banned gatherings of 100 or more people (the Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention now recommend only 50 for the next eight weeks), it became inevitable.
The Greensboro Coliseum staff, which manages the arts center, is scrambling to reschedule a heavy slate of events that had filled much of the Tanger Center’s inaugural calendar — in the midst of a health crisis whose duration is open-ended.
You have to feel for the folks at the coliseum, who spent years planning for the ACC Tournament’s return to Greensboro after several years and now this happens. The good news is that the Tanger Center has been built to last. It was conceived from the grass roots up with community input from both boosters and skeptics. It’s the product of both city support and an unprecedented private fundraising campaign in Greensboro that kept stretching its goals as donations mounted.
But its importance pales in comparison to the public health crisis that the coronavirus poses worldwide. By Saturday, Gov. Cooper had ordered K-12 public schools closed for at least two weeks. By Monday, the number of confirmed coronavirus cases in North Carolina had risen to 32.
As for the Tanger Center, its predicament is not all that different from everyone else’s: the need for an abundance of caution and sacrifice for now in the knowledge that they will pay off in the long run. On Monday, a UNC-Chapel Hill epidemiologist predicted that the state’s infections could top 4,000 by early April. So we’ll need to match resolve with prudence, and heed the experts.
On Sunday, the Greensboro Symphony tested the facility’s state-of-the-art sound system. On Monday, the Tanger Center announced that the musical “Chicago” has been booked for June 16 and 18. This show will go on. Eventually.
And so will the rest of us.