The record-breaking heatwave may have moved the Cal State San Bernardino Performing Arts Center groundbreaking ceremony indoors, but that didn’t stop the event from being a lively and significant moment for the CSUSB community.
The Sept. 7 event brought nearly 300 CSUSB administrators, faculty, staff, students and community members together in the Santos Manuel Student Union South to officially break ground for the new 73,337-square-foot Performing Arts Center.
The center, which will be located south of the existing Performing Arts Building, will offer a 500-seat theater and music instruction space. The $126,907,000 construction project is scheduled to open during the 2024-25 academic year.
“Providing our students with 21st century resources means that they require access to state-of-the-art facilities. Therefore, our campus needs both to refresh and build new over time,” said CSUSB President Tomás D. Morales during the event, who expressed his joy for attending CSUSB musical and theatrical performances. “I know that you agree with me that our students deserve the very best. They have that already with their faculty – now we need to ensure that they have it in their learning spaces.”
Morales also thanked Stan and Ellen Weisser ’68, longtime supporters of Cal State San Bernardino who gave an invaluable gift for the new Performing Arts Center. The university has named the center's foyer the Ellen and Stan Weisser Performing Arts Foyer.
“My thanks to Stan and Ellen Weisser for their leadership in making the seed donation, which has brought us to today,” he said.
The center will provide modern teaching, rehearsal and performance spaces necessary for a modern performing arts program. Creating a new 500-seat performing arts theater will allow the university to provide a more equitable educational experience that reflects the excellence of the theater arts and music programs at CSUSB. At completion, the theater will be the only one of its size and quality in the Inland Empire, and will allow more of the area’s community to experience the highly acclaimed productions from CSUSB student-performers and student-musicians. The building will also create a new “front door” to the campus that shows a modern and forward-looking face to visitors and the larger community.
“Once its doors open, we will be able to provide invaluable learning experiences for our students and further bridge the connection between our campus and local communities,” said Morales. “Because this groundbreaking is for a groundbreaker of a project for the IE.”
Rafik Mohamed, interim provost and vice president for Academic Affairs, spoke about the benefits of introducing a new state-of-the-art building for student learning.
“The buildings aren’t just about the structure. The buildings are about our number one priority, and that’s student success,” Mohamed said. “Research shows that student learning and achievement increase when students are taught in new, rebuilt or renovated structures. Specifically, campus facilities have been shown to positively effect student health, student behavior, engagement and attendance, all of which are associated with improved student achievement.”
Rueyling Chuang, dean of the College of Arts and Letters, thanked all who have helped along the way and who attended the ceremony.
“Thank you to our amazing donors and supporters who are here today who are supporting our college and students. Whether you are an alumnus, faculty or staff member, student, community member or friend of the university, your presence here today means a lot to us,” she said. “Without this support and generosity from individuals like you, the construction of the Performing Arts Center like this would not be possible. Thank you for helping us turn our dream into a reality.”
Attendees also heard welcome remarks from Terry Donovan Smith, chair of the theatre arts department, a land acknowledgement by Robert Levi, the university’s elder/culture bearer in-residence, and remarks by Sam Sudhakar, chief information officer and vice president for Information Technology Services, and Robert Nava, vice president for University Advancement.
The event also offered musical performances by CSUSB alumnus Daniel Ramon Jr., student Trisha Owens and pianist Alastair Edmonstone.
The project’s architect is the Los Angeles office of HGA Architects, and the general contractor is the Los Angeles office of Rudolph and Sletten.
The Performing Arts Center is the first new state-funded academic building on campus under CSUSB’s current master plan. In September 2017, the CSU Board of Trustees approved the updated CSUSB physical campus master plan with an enrollment ceiling increase from 20,000 to 25,000 full-time equivalent students. This change recognized the increasing demand for higher education in the Inland Empire, the fastest growing region in the nation according to the 2010 U.S. census.
With the support of the Board of Trustees, CSUSB began implementing the campus master plan first through the completion of a 400-bed student housing and dining commons in 2018, the Center for Global Innovation building in 2019, and most recently with the Santos Manuel Student Union expansion project, which had its grand opening earlier this year.