SHIPSHEWANA — Renovations begin next week at the Shipshwewana Event Center following a groundbreaking ceremony Wednesday, with plans to finish the project in March.

The building will be renamed the Blue Gate Performing Arts Center.

“We’ve had concerts in this building for close to 10 years,” said Ryan Riegsecker, president of Blue Gate Hospitality Group. “We’ve grown from doing two or three shows here in the first few years to this year doing 88 shows here.”

The building, built in 2002, was purchased from the town of Shipshewana by Blue Gate Hospitality Group in 2017.

In the past the theater has housed renowned acts such as Merle Haggard, Kenny Rogers and Loretta Lynn.

This year alone the theater has scheduled Neil McCoy, Oakridge Boys, Daniel O’Donnell, Texas Tenors and Trace Adkins.

Due to the high volume of shows, the Blue Gate decided the theater could use some upgrades.

A larger stage and increased seating as well as a bigger backstage area are just a few ways the theater will be improving.

“We’re tearing all the floor out. It’ll have a recess and be a sloped floor,” Riegsecker said. “The stage will be higher than what it currently is. Every seat will have a nice view. Right now we have tiered seating, which isn’t the best, so this will be a great improvement.”

The current conference center will be turned into an event space, the former Hudson Auto Museum area will become an extension of the theater, and additional parking will be added.

“It’s going to be a lot better for the artists as well,” Riegsecker said.

With an exsiting seating capacity of 1,200, the new seating arrangement will hold 1,500 people, but Riegsecker claims seating will be more prime for everyone.

“When you’re at the back of the new theater, the farthest person back will be about halfway from the distance the person farthest away is now, so it’s much closer,” according to Andrew Rohrer, vice president of sales and marketing.

This year they added 38 new shows to their season, and they hope to continue having 88 shows every year for the next few years.

The cost for the renovation is $4.1 million.

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