If you ask those who conceived and executed the $18 million Montague Terrace performance and event space, it is not just the opening act that's glorious.
Brad and Jennifer Moranz's musical production "Glorious Gershwin" offers a sneak preview today of the North Charleston Coliseum's heralded new venue, a multiuse space that's part of an ongoing 15,000-square-foot expansion program.
"Montague Terrace really evolved out of the need to expand the concourse space for the comfort level of our patrons," said Coliseum General manager Dave Holscher. "Even from the beginning, when the coliseum opened in 1993, we quickly noticed that when 5,000 or more people were on hand, the north and south concourses got a little snug.
"We always wanted make improvements, so we thought this was one somewhat simple way of pulling out the concourse by adding two 7,400-square-foot extensions on either side."
A second wing on the north side of the coliseum will be completed next year.
Montague Terrace will be used as an entertainment space for small concerts and theatrical performances, as a food court for coliseum events, and as a reception area. Its seating capacity for cabaret-style performances will range from 200 to 300, though 500 patrons could be handled for events not requiring full seating, Holscher said.
"For 'Glorious Gershwin' we intentionally kept it to 200 seats because I wanted to make sure that once the production side got set up and we got the tables and chairs in there that we knew what the sight lines would be," he said. "We want to make certain we get it right."
Holscher said Montague Terrace was designed to allow for events that were too small for the coliseum or North Charleston Performing Arts Center.
"We can host things now we've never been able to do before, from comedy series to ongoing variety shows."
Versatility was the key concept. The project originated as an expanded food court in which existing concession stands would be pulled out from the backs of eight suites in the coliseum's four sections in order that the suites also be enlarged.
That part of the project is still is progress, said Jenna DiForio, the coliseum's catering sales manager.
"But we expect the concession stands in Montague Terrace to be complete by mid-October, in time for the opening of the South Carolina Stingrays' season," she added.
Holscher also noted that along with improved capacity would come upgraded kitchen capabilities.
"The variety of food we can offer now is significantly increased," he said. "We've redone the kitchen down on the service level to accommodate new catering opportunities as well. We also have a new chef (Steve Dottai) on board and a banquet staff to do the events we were never able to do before we had this space."