McALLEN — You can smell the sadness.
Beyond the memorable red velvet curtains, beyond the dusty trash littered throughout, beyond the darkness, where you need to provide your own light to walk around these days, beyond the sign that reads “enrich your senses,” it lingers in the air, built up over years and years of performances but more recently from the hollowness once the Civic Center closed earlier this year.
There are empty beer cans on the ground, seats turned over, a bottle of Crest mouthwash and a full soap dispenser by a sink.
The bathroom smell is so pungent it smacks you in the face.
Nearby, in an electrical closet, sit batons with sparkles that don’t sparkle anymore. On a shelf above is an empty can of odor eliminator.
Promotion cards for Matthew West’s Live Forever Tour sit under some trash, dusty and untouched. “Important News!” another sheet reads, telling people the March 31 concert date and location had changed to the Convention Center.
Demolition of the Civic Center is set to begin Thursday with the site likely to turn into an upscale shopping area. Unfortunately for some, like those over the summer who stayed for hours at multiple city commission meetings to give public comment, the building won’t be preserved.
“We just want you to think about maybe going about it in a different way,” one woman said during public comment.
Mayor Jim Darling seemed genuinely caring and stayed after meetings to talk about the citizen’s concerns and how much the Civic Center means to them.
Many hope the history will never be forgotten.
Performances from stars like Juan Gabriel and Beverly Sills, as well as local staples like “The Nutcracker Suite,” provided lifelong memories. Deborah Case, who’s been with the Rio Grande Valley Ballet, which stages “The Nutcracker” locally, since 1979, just seven years after it began in ‘72, didn’t take any mementos from the theater.
But a sign for her “Nutcracker” still hangs decaying behind glass at the Civic Center.
When told, Case appreciated that, though she’s not necessarily one for nostalgia — she knew something had to be done.
“The auditorium was falling apart, the roof was leaking,” Case said. “Something had to happen. Either renovate it or build something new.”
Case is “totally excited” about the new opportunities offered by the new Performing Arts Center. Interestingly, there will be a news conference Wednesday morning announcing who will be performing at the new Performing Arts Center next month once it opens.
Interspersed in the big time acts that will likely be announced, local talent will be performing at the PAC as well. The local “Nutcracker” will be performing once again in December.
Theater technology has changed so much, Case said, which limited what the local “Nutcracker” could do.
“For example, lighting,” Case said. “It was basically just light bulbs. That’s it.”
Cracked bulbs sat on the ground in the theater on Tuesday.
In other rooms there were some bulbs screwed in while others were missing.
“Our ‘Nutcracker’ will be more creative than ever,” Case said.
But before “The Nutcracker” performs at the new PAC, the Civic Center will come tumbling down. Cars will rumble by on the nearby Expressway, which hardly existed when the Civic Center was built in 1960.
And, come to think of it, Case will always remember something specific about the Civic Center.
“The standing ovation,” she said.
“It’s very cool and very rare these days when you’re local. Every time I think about the theater, I can still see the whole place filled with a standing ovation.”