The Dream Becomes a Reality

Main Lobby

The Fox Cities Performing Arts Center opened its doors to the public on November 25, 2002 in Appleton, Wisconsin to rave reviews.

The new $45 million facility opened its doors only 31 months after breaking ground. Not only was the facility built in a record amount of time, but it also was able to accomplish its goal of raising the $45 million through the private contributions of over 2,700 local residents and businesses. Boldt Construction Company worked closely with Zeidler Grinnell Partnership Architects and Artec Consultants to assure that this facility was world-class in both the amenities and the acoustics it has to offer its audiences.

Read the architects statement


Each seating level boasts lobby space and its own concessions stations for a total of 25,000 square feet. The lobby is ideal for community gatherings on performance days and can also host receptions, meetings and other events. The lobby services both the 2,100-seat Thrivent Financial Hall and the smaller, multi-purpose Kimberly-Clark Theater.

Thrivent Hall’s 40 foot proscenium separates a 5,000 square foot stage (the second largest in the state) from the 2,100-seat theater of which no seat is further than 108 feet from the stage. The theater walls are finished in a red Veneciano plastering technique, which complements the red seats and brass accents.

The Kimberly-Clark Theater is a flexible black-box theatrical space that is finished with beautiful maple floors and red acoustical curtains to help soften the room. The 4,160 square foot space is ideal for receptions, banquets, lectures and intimate music and theatrical presentations.

The long-held dream of a major Fox Cities facility devoted to the performing arts is now a reality. Built to serve the cultural, educational and entertainment needs of our communities for generations. The performing arts possess an especially powerful language for eliciting emotion and compelling people to see, hear, feel, think and learn. Without an active, vibrant gathering place dedicated to this pursuit, however, the performing arts fall silent and still. Not a new dream — but a vital one.

The vision that became the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center has its beginning as long ago as the 1970’s. It was then that local arts groups and civic leaders imagined a community gathering place in which to house the region’s wealth of performing artists — a place to educate and enlighten the community and our children — a stage from which to present some of the most spectacular and moving performing arts from around the world.

These visionaries understood the ongoing support of performing arts is crucial to the entire region’s quality of life. What the project needed at this point was a catalyst — an individual or corporation to take the lead and provide the initial momentum necessary to move this long-held dream successfully toward reality.

The fall of 1999 was a pivotal point for the dream of bringing a performing arts facility to the Fox Cities. It was then that Aid Association for Lutherans stepped forward in overwhelming support of the Center.

Recognizing the opportunity to marry the community’s need for a performing arts center with its upcoming centennial celebration, Thrivent Financial for Lutherans contributed a very generous $8 million gift toward the goal — the largest philanthropic corporate gift in the history of the Fox Cities.

This was the starting point for the creation of the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center.

The Power of Collective Commitment

Entrance 21 Luxury Suite

Following Thrivent for Lutherans lead, both private and public sectors of the community embraced the vision and showed tremendous effort in bringing the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center to life.

In an unprecedented display of regional cooperation, 14 Fox Cities municipalities dedicated $8 million in hotel and motel room taxes to the construction of the Center. The City of Appleton also pledged an extra portion of their lodging tax toward the Center’s operational needs.

Once funding was underway, an optimal location was needed. The City of Appleton designated the site for the arts and entertainment complex, an ideal location along West College Avenue. The city’s economic Redevelopment Authority committed the $4.2 million necessary to acquire this land and prepare the site for the new theater.

Recognizing the positive impact the Center would have on our community, Kimberly-Clark Corporation contributed $3 million to create the Kimberly-Clark Theater, a 450-seat performance space within the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center.

Under the leadership of John Bergstrom, the Performing Arts Center’s board of directors and an army of volunteer fundraisers undertook a campaign to raise $45 million. This was the amount of funds needed to build the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center.

So that everyone in the region would have the opportunity to participate in the endeavor as a contributor, the committee sought support throughout the area. Local foundations, professionals, businesses and thousands of individuals within the community shared the dream of a performing arts center gave generously.

A Historic Mission. An Accomplished Team

Kimberly-Clark Theater

After an extensive search, Zeidler Roberts Partnership, Inc. (ZRP) of Toronto, Canada, was hired to design the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center.

With significant experience in the design of major performing arts facilities, ZRP began their extraordinary design work in January of 2000.

ZRP conceived of a structure as impressive as it is functional. The Center offers the area not only a spectacular addition to the architecture of the area, but a truly superior venue for accommodating local arts groups and those from around the world.

Another critical member of the design team, Artec, Inc., of New York, was selected to provide acoustical and theatrical consulting for the Center. Features of their design include an expansive acoustical panel that enhances and disperses sound throughout the main theater to provide an exceptional experience.

The Foundation and Future of the Arts

Dress Circle Lobby

Finally, in May 2000, the O.J. Boldt Construction Company began work on this historic facility. Construction continued for the next 30 months as one of the most complex and long-awaited facilities to be built in the Fox Cities began to take shape in the heart of Appleton’s downtown.

An impressive structure, the Fox Cities Performing Arts Center was built using more than 21,000 cubic yards of concrete, 3.3 million pounds of reinforcing steel and 530 tons of structural steel.

The Curtain Rises on the Dream

Thrivent Hall

For nearly 30 years, the people of this community imagined what a gathering place for the performing arts could mean to the Fox Cities — the cultural programs it would create and enhance — the visitors it would draw to our doorstep.

We dreamed of a place where we could be entertained and inspired, educated and challenged — where we would be stimulated and invigorated by world-class talent. A place to see beyond our immediate world and deepen our insight as human beings.