The public is invited to listen to small performances while they explore the Seattle Opera’s new opera center during a grand-opening celebration 2-5 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 15.

The $60 million facility next to McCaw Hall was funded through public and private donations generated during two capital campaigns, the first being put on hold following the 2008 Great Recession.

Seattle Opera long knew it would need to be out of the old South Lake Union carpet factory it kept its rehearsal and office spaces in by November 2018, said Maryanne Tagney, immediate past president of the Seattle Opera Board of Directors. She added she was thankful that the Rogers family made that property available until a new home could be found.

“They’re right next to Amazon in South Lake Union,” she said. “I’m pretty sure they will be happy to sell the building.”

The City of Seattle made the old Mercer Arena, next to McCaw Hall in Seattle Center, available to Seattle Opera; that offer was set to expire at the end of June 2014.

“We put a team together in January 2014,” Tagney said. “We had our first meeting with Forterra.”

The 105,000-square-foot LEED gold Seattle Opera at the Center was designed by NBBJ and constructed by Lease Crutcher Lewis, with the opera board raising more than half of the $28.5 million in private funding and the rest coming from major donors outside the board, Tagney said. The city, county and state chipped in about 25 percent, which funds the community and education portions of the new center.

Construction broke ground in June 2017, and the certificate of occupancy was granted earlier this month. A private opening was held on Dec. 8, and included the board, donors, government officials and others who helped construct the opera center.

“It’s so great,” Tagney said. “It’s just, after working on it for all those years and years and years, and seeing all those drawings and 3D viewing it, it came out exactly as it looked.”

There is 20,000 square feet of community programming and education space, which the company has never had before. While large productions will continue in McCaw Hall, Tagney said a number of smaller productions at the center will be offered at little to no cost.

“We don’t know yet how this is going to work; this is a completely new process,” she said. “We’ve never had the facilities before to offer this.”

Those specifics will be worked out in the coming weeks, and Seattle Opera will also be reaching out to community organizations to see how they would like to use the space when it’s available.

Tagney Jones Hall provides seating for more than 300 for performances and educational and community events. It was constructed using reclaimed fir decking from the Mercer Arena. Old growth timber from the arena’s roof was also incorporated into the new opera center.

“The acoustics so far have proven to be fantastic in the small hall,” Tagney said.

She said people will enjoy the viewing garden that looks down on the costume shop, watching professionals put various pieces, such as for Verdi’s “Il trovatore,” which runs Jan. 12–26. 

“Also, I think people are really going to be interested in seeing we have community facilities,” Tagney said.

The opera center has three multipurpose studios, one with a main stage as large as the one in McCaw Hall, so casts can rehearse on actual sets. Tagney said the sets can be rolled over from the center to McCaw for the performances.

“So there you go, we took a bunch of trucks off the road,” she said.

People can check out the new opera center any time between 2-5 p.m. at 363 Mercer St., with performances at the start of every hour. Find out more at seattleopera.org.