Sundome To Be Demolished

When it opened 33 years ago, the Sundome in Sun City West in Phoenix was the largest single-story performing-arts center in the country.

It cost $8.6 million to build and was designed primarily as a concert hall with 7,169 seats.

By 2005, the Sundome Center for the Performing Arts was a white elephant and was sold by Arizona State University to Maricopa County for just $10.

The county gave the Sundome back to ASU in 2007 and last year, a developer bought the 16-acre site for $2 million.

Now it’s scheduled to be demolished by the end of this summer after workers salvage the seats and other memorabilia, according to The Arizona Republic.

Fry’s Food Stores, which will anchor a new shopping center on the site, plans to keep some parts of the theater _ the iron gates around the facade, the Sundome mosaic. The grocery store will replicate the arched architecture.

The store may display some of the Sundome’s pictures of its most lustrous performers, which include comedians Bob Hope and Tim Conway and a range of singers from Rosemary Clooney to Bob Dylan.

“We’re trying to make sure we incorporate as much as we can from the existing building so there is a remembrance,” said Jon Flora, president of Fry’s Food.

The venue opened in September 1980 and was designed by architects for the Del E. Webb Development Co. as a marketing tool to sell homes in Sun City West.

It’s being demolished after decades of financial losses and repeated attempts to make it a viable performance space.

The combination of an inconvenient location, increasing competition and its struggle to reach younger consumers constantly kept the Sundome in the red.

Its sheer size was too large for a performing-arts center, said David Baile, president of the New York-based International Society for the Performing Arts, a group that represents theater managers, producers and artists around the world.

“That’s a lot of seats to fill,” Baile said. “In general, a lot of people build facilities with the idea that if you build it, they will come. But you have to look at your market.”