Refurbished Herberger A Downtown Gem

A little more than a year after reopening, the newly refurbished Herberger Theater, which fronts Monroe Street and is bound by Third and Second streets to the east and west, and Van Buren Street to the north, is both classy and current. With outdoor patios that can accommodate large numbers of people and inside/outside events, new signage and updated aesthetics, it is poised to become a game-changer for its surrounds.


Built in 1989, the 20-plus year-old downtown theater was a showpiece in downtown Phoenix, attracting about 175,000 patrons annually and an additional 30,000 school children. It was a beautiful building, but both its infrastructure and aesthetics were dated.


Funded by a $16 million bond from the 2006 election, two renovation phases have been completed. Phase 1 included heating, air conditioning and other improvements to make the center compliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act. Phase 2 focused on the patron experience, bringing up-to-date the building and its aesthetics.


The Herberger Theater property is owned and maintained by the city of Phoenix. The refurbishing was funded by $16 million from the 2006 Citizen Bond Election. A long-range vision includes the addition of a retail component on the north side of the theater along Van Buren Street. The retail component would be run as a for-profit business, with the goal being to create an endowment for the theater.


The exterior of the Herberger as it appeared prior to the renovation. Additional John Waddell statues have been installed on the Van Buren Street (north) side of the building.



This view of the building's front facade shows the outdoor seating area on the second floor outside Bob's Spot (see photo at bottom).



Previously, the companies that perform at the Herberger Theater did not have permanent signage. Now their names are listed beneath the Herberger Theater Center sign on the building, with room to add more as needed.



The old second floor of the lobby lacked the drama now present. Above the refurbished lobby (see photo at top) hang 168 individual LED lights.



The old main lobby featured glass and brass. 



The new staircase leading upward from the main lobby retains the marble stairs but has been updated with modern colors, eliminating the brass and glass that was popular when the theater opened in the late '80s. New lettering at the top of the stairs is the first permanent sign the upstairs art gallery – where artwork is available for viewing as well as for purchase – has ever had.



A new entrance on the building's north side welcomes guests to the Kax Stage (named for Kax Herberger), where lunchtime theater is performed.




At first glance, the refurbished Center Stage appears similar to the old. The seats, which have been recovered, now sport wood armrests. Seats are available for sponsorship in all of the theaters, with brass plaques for the sponsors' names.




Stage West seats have gone from beige to bright yellow.



Bob's Spot, named for Bob Herberger, is a new lounge area with its own bar and a balcony with tables and chairs. It is a new space built on the upper half of the formerly two-story lobby to the west of the main lobby. The room is available for rent. The Bob's Spot logo is projected onto the floor and can be changed out for a private event or turned off altogether.

– C.Miller

Photos by Courtney Sargent 

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