In a collaborative partnership, Utah Tech University and the Southern Utah Performing Arts Foundation are teaming up to renovate the M.K. Cox Performing Arts Center in support of Washington County’s cultural arts scene.
The proposed renovations to the Cox, located on the Utah Tech campus, will benefit the entire Southern Utah community with the goal of drawing world-class talent to Washington County, enhancing residents’ quality of life with culturally rich entertainment opportunities and making a positive economic impact on the region. Additionally, the renovated space will serve as the official home of Southwest Symphony, Southern Utah Heritage Choir and Utah Tech’s University Orchestra, UT Symphonic Band and UT Live!, the Celebrity Concert Series.
Seeking a facility that meets the needs of both the Southwest Symphony and Southern Utah Heritage Choir, the foundation proposed to partner with Utah Tech to renovate the Cox to effectively and efficiently provide practice and performance spaces. The university then commissioned a feasibility study to determine what renovations would be necessary to equip the Cox to meet the university, symphony and choir’s needs as well as estimate the associated cost.
Once these local organizations determined it was feasible to share a performing arts center, the university partnered with the foundation in line with Utah Tech’s commitment to contributing to social, cultural and educational opportunities throughout the region as part of the university’s “active learning. active life.” approach to education. As a dedicated community partner and supporter of the arts, Utah Tech will continue to maintain the facility while the foundation will help with initial fundraising efforts.
Proposed renovations include expanding the lobby, rehearsal spaces, box office, concessions and restrooms to accommodate larger audiences and a wider variety of performers. To enhance the audience experience, the plan includes adding a balcony with more seating, center aisles for easier access to seats and event space as well as upgrading lighting, sound and projection equipment throughout the building.
In support of the project, the Utah State Legislature dedicated $28 million to renovate the performing arts center during its 2023 General Session.
“We are thrilled with this investment in our community, and believe it will benefit generations of Southern Utahns for years to come,” said Lowry Snow, chair of the Southern Utah Performing Arts Foundation. “A renovated facility will provide a gathering place for the community to enrich each other through the arts.”
Built in the 1980s, the Cox Auditorium was part of the original Dixie Center, which also included the Burns Arena and a convention center — now Smith’s Computer Center — on the college campus. Funded in part by Washington County, the City of St. George, then-Dixie College and the Washington County School District, the project was a community effort and community members committed to the project’s success and the future of the city and its university. Completed in 1986, the Cox Auditorium — funded in large part by Dr. Mervyn K. and Sue Cox — began to serve the community as a center for performing arts. About a decade after its completion, the university bought the entire Dixie Center and continued to use the Cox as a community arts hub.
“Utah Tech University is deeply appreciative to the Southern Utah Performing Arts Foundation and the Utah State Legislature for their unwavering commitment to supporting a much-needed state-of-the-art performing arts center in Southern Utah,” Dr. Richard B. Williams, president of Utah Tech University, said. “Providing enriching cultural arts experiences is vital to shaping a vibrant community and the renovated center will be a jewel for both campus and community.”
The Southern Utah Performing Arts Foundation and Utah Tech are currently raising support to bring the project to fruition. With an expected price tag of $40 million, community support is needed to supplement the Legislature’s $28 million appropriation. To share more about the impact of the renovation project and ways the community can get involved, Utah Tech and the foundation will present at the St. George Area Chamber of Commerce’s Power Lunch at 11:30 a.m. on April 19 in the Gardner Student Center Ballroom on the Utah Tech campus. Registration is required at business.stgeorgechamber.com/events.
To learn how to help support the M.K. Cox Performing Arts Center renovation project, visit supafoundation.com.