Meet Pete and Marla Nelson
Posted Jul 13, 2017
Pete and Marla Nelson have had a unique view of the Fox Cities P.A.C. from the beginning. Marla, who at the time was an employee at Thrivent Financial, remembers the excitement in the community prior to the building being finished.
“When I think about downtown before the P.A.C. was built, there were more open buildings, and fewer restaurants,” Marla said. “So to see the difference now, with an active and vibrant downtown, is unbelievable. I can’t imagine what downtown would be today without the P.A.C.”
Pete was an employee at Johnson Controls and still remembers when the opportunity to apply for a position at the new building came around.
“It was the summer of 2002 and Johnson Controls had been hired to run the building. The opportunity to be a contracted building manager was mentioned to me, and I applied. I was in Florida when I got the call for the interview, and two weeks after that I started here,” Pete recalled. “We were first faced with that fact that we needed to open in three weeks and we still had lifts in the lobby and plastic on the chairs. But of course everyone got everything done on time.”
Pete and Marla both remember the opening night when everything ran smoothly, except for when the lights went out.
“There’s a lot you don’t think about when you are first figuring everything out,” Pete said with a laugh. “Someone in the lobby just leaned against a switch. That’s how we learned we needed to install covers over the switches.”
Marla, however, mostly just remembers the thrill of that opening night.
“I remember thinking that this is really happening in Appleton. Walking in with all of these people that first night was so exciting,” Marla said. “I’ve been to New York to see shows but this theater was so new, so beautiful, so convenient – even the parking was convenient and the performances have been just as amazing.”
Pete spent five years with the Center, managing the building and learning a lot about working in the theater. He remembers projects like designing the Partners Lounge bar and the first time The Lion King was in town – and special moments like watching students rush in for an Education Series performance and being one of three recipients of the very first Distinguished Service Award.
“I remember saying something in my speech along the lines of this is the only place where you meet the President of the United States, the former President of the Soviet Union, The Beach Boys and Carrot Top,” Pete said with a chuckle.
Pete and Marla have since been Annual Partners of the Center, supporting its mission-based programming because they have had a front row seat as those programs have grown and made a difference in our community.
“The arts are something we have always believed in,” Marla said. “We have a special feeling for the school programs because as a little girl I went to see theater in Chicago.”
“We understand that as long as you have this facility running, you will need donations from the community to help it do what it does,” she added. “It’s so nice that the community has really embraced this Center and continues to, because many times there’s a good start and then it doesn’t necessarily keep up. A lot of community members and leaders put a lot of time and effort into making this building happen and people in the Fox Cities are still really involved and committed to seeing it succeed.”