Attracting a crowd

Hylton Performing Arts Center used for a variety of events

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Print this page by Bruce Potter

When Corey Stewart first toured the completed Hylton Performing Arts Center, he was stunned.

“It took my breath away,” says the chairman of the county Board of Supervisors. “I couldn’t believe it was in Prince William County.”

A partnership involving the county, the city of Manassas, the state and George Mason University, the Hylton Center opened on GMU’s Prince William campus in spring 2010.  The center has 85,000 square feet, including a 1,150-seat main hall and a smaller theater, which seats 260.  Stewart noted the main hall is gaining a reputation among performers and audiences for its outstanding acoustics.

More important for the county, the center draws tens of thousands of patrons a year to its signature Hylton Presents series. Plus, there are performances by resident community arts groups that rent the facility and corporate and community meetings, banquets and other events.

The uses are diverse. Google sponsored a day of online advertising seminars last fall that filled every square foot of usable space, says Rick Davis, the Hylton’s executive director. The United States-China Economic and Security Review Commission held a Capitol Hill-style public hearing in the facility in March. “They said it was the best attended hearing they had,” Davis says. “That’s great for the county and for the area.”

Davis also is starting to field an increasing number of inquiries from wedding planners. “We see a great demand for that. It’s a beautiful place.”

The center means that Prince William residents don’t have to drive into Fairfax or Washington to see a major show or concert — and they can eat dinner nearby as well.

“We have tons of anecdotal evidence [of the economic impact] — mainly in the form of thank-yous and expressions of support from area businesses, especially restaurants,” Davis says. “The idea that you can have dinner and a show available within a very short drive is appealing.” 

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