Hardly a day goes by that the West Virginia University Creative Arts Center Concert Theater isnt in use. In fact, according to Mark Oreskovich, who oversees the buildings performing venues, its busy 325 days out of the year.

So, when the 1,400-seat theater closes in January for a year-long renovation project, theater and concert-goers may be a bit inconvenienced, but the end result will be well worth it, officials say.

“The theater has always been the gem of this building,”says Associate Dean Jaime Winsor,”and following extensive restoration we should have the finest theater of this size between Pittsburgh and Charleston.”

Winsor calls it the”premier public performance space at WVU ,”with everything from summer theater productions and concerts to large-scale ceremonies and lectures taking place there.

Charleston philanthropist Lyell Clay recently donated the $2 million needed for the work, he notes, and Mathes-Brierre of New Orleans, a firm that specializes in refurbishing performance areas, is the architect.

“When patrons return during the spring semester of 2003, the theater will not only be better equipped, but it will have a contemporary feel to it,”Winsor says.”Right now, even though its a wonderful performing space, it has an early60s look with heavy red draping and wall treatment.”

The work will include improved acoustics and house and stage lighting; a new fly loft rigging system requiring removal of a portion of the roof; new wall treatments, carpeting and main stage drape; ADA -accessible ramps; a new sprinkler and fire alarm system; and improved dressing rooms, green room and production area.

The lobby outside the theater will also get a face-lift and be ADA -compatible.

The renovated theater will be renamed the Lyell B. Clay Concert Theater in honor of the philanthropist. Through the charitable foundation that bears his name, Clay has also provided funding for the Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences in Charleston. His belief, says Winsor, is to make educational and cultural spaces available to all West Virginians.

Dean Bernie Schultz describes Clays gift as both generous and unique.

“It not only will provide for one of the finest performance theaters in the region, but given the educational mission of the College of Creative Arts, it will also greatly enhance the future of the arts in West Virginia and, indeed, throughout our nation,”Schultz says.”Mr. Clays foresight will contribute to the quality of the arts for generation upon generation to come.”

Clays gift was made to the WVU Foundation in conjunction with the”Building Greatness”Campaign.