New University of Alabama performing arts facility to transform historic Bryce Hospital

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TUSCALOOSA, Ala. (WIAT) — After years of planning and pitching ideas, the University of Alabama Department of Theatre and Dance will finally be able to look forward to a facility for performing arts.

A 130,000 square-foot Performing Arts Academic Center is now in the works thanks to a $15 million campaign launched in 2017. With the approval from the UA Board of Trustees, the new Performing Arts Academic Center is set to break ground in spring of 2021. The project is not slated to be completed until 2023 or 2024. 

The historic Bryce Hospital, formerly Alabama’s oldest and largest inpatient psychiatric facility, will be transformed into part the new arts complex. In 2010, the university purchased the hospital, which opened in 1861 as the Alabama State Hospital for the Insane. Patients were moved to a nearby facility in 2014, according to the Alabama Department of Mental Health.

After moving to Tuscaloosa in 2013, Bill Battle, former athletic director at the University of Alabama, and his wife Mary were amazed at the ample opportunities for top-notch arts performance in the area.

Battle believed that shows he was able to attend locally in Tuscaloosa were of the same caliber as a Broadway performance. He was eager to help when university’s department of theatre and dance revealed their lack of resources. When the Battles found out Judy Bonner, former UA president (2012-2015) was making plans for a new arts facility, they offered their help and became co-chairs of the successful Campaign for the Performing Arts.

The PAAC will consist of four theatres, rehearsal rooms, classrooms, workshops and offices for Theatre and Dance students and staff. The University of Alabama Department of Theatre and Dance has high hopes for the new $50 million facility.


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