The Woodlands, Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion announce concept for possible new performing arts center

An artist's rendering captures a concept for a potential new performing arts center in The Woodlands. (Rendering courtesy The Woodlands Township)
An artist's rendering captures a concept for a potential new performing arts center in The Woodlands. (Rendering courtesy The Woodlands Township)

An artist's rendering captures a concept for a potential new performing arts center in The Woodlands. (Rendering courtesy The Woodlands Township)

The Woodlands Township's vision for a new performing arts center is taking shape with the Dec. 5 announcement of a plan to work with The Center for the Performing Arts at The Woodlands to potentially develop a $71 million, 100,000-square-foot center next to the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion.

The Woodlands Township board of directors approved a memorandum of understanding Dec. 4 for the potential development of a center with the nonprofit, which operates the Pavilion. The 6-0 approval came late in the evening after an executive session without additional comment from the board. According to a Dec. 5 township news release, the MOU is nonbinding and intended for developing studies that could lead to a final, binding agreement.

“We have conducted numerous community studies and interviews about ‘what’s next’ in The Woodlands, with an indoor performing arts venue being at the top of the list,” board of directors Chairman Gordy Bunch said in the news release. “The Woodlands is known throughout the area, state, nation and world for The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion. The Woodlands Waterway Arts Festival is one of the nation’s best, and our outdoor art program is award-winning. A performing arts center could exactly be the ‘what’s next’ as The Woodlands continues its appeal for residents, businesses, conventions and tourism. We would anticipate the opening of this venue would be in grand fashion as The Pavilion did with the opening in having Frank Sinatra, something along the lines of the production of Hamilton or similar traveling performances. We have the potential to be a significant arts destination.”

The Pavilion entered its 30th season in 2019, said Jerry MacDonald, the president and CEO of The Pavilion, in the release.

"What better way to celebrate than to partner with the township on this milestone project,” MacDonald said. “A theater in The Woodlands accomplishes the ultimate vision of George and Cynthia Woods Mitchell and keeps with the venue’s mission of fostering new audiences and enhancing an appreciation of the performing arts.”

A concept plan released by the township Dec. 5 places the prospective location next to the Pavilion on Lake Robbins Drive in an area referred to as the "Gold Parking Lot." Possible attributes of the facility could include:

  • a project cost of $71 million;

  • a facility size of about 100,000 square feet;

  • a 1,500-seat theater;

  • a 200- to 400-seat multipurpose venue;

  • rehearsal, classroom and practice spaces;

  • public gallery space; and

  • outdoor space for receptions.

The project would set the two entities toward goals of increasing performing arts options in The Woodlands area while providing smaller indoor facilities for year-round performances as well as attracting more entertainment and tourism traffic to the area, according to the release. On the township's side, the project could contribute to the economic vitality of the area and support additional conventions and trade shows. The township's visitor and convention bureau, Visit The Woodlands, has increased its national visibility this year through advertising and increased efforts to bring meetings and conventions to township spaces, VTW President Nick Wolda said earlier this year.

According to the MOU, the facilities would be operated by The Pavilion.

A final agreement is pending completion of a due diligence review, parking and traffic flow studies as well as commitment of capital for the project.
By Vanessa Holt
A resident of the Houston area since 2011, Vanessa began working in community journalism in her home state of New Jersey in 1996. She joined Community Impact Newspaper in 2016 as a reporter for the Spring/Klein edition and became editor of that paper in March 2017 and editor of The Woodlands edition in January 2019.