Stage is set for fall opening

Eddie Hernandez of Capital Steel welds on one of the steel beams on the roof of the Reilly Arts Center 15,000 square foot expansion that is under construction in Ocala, Fla. on Friday, June 18, 2021. [Bruce Ackerman/Ocala Gazette] 2021.

Home » Arts & Entertainment
Posted June 24, 2021 | By Susan Smiley-Height, Ocala Gazette

Additions will nearly double the size of the Reilly Arts Center

Eddie Hernandez of Capital Steel welds on one of the steel beams on the roof of the Reilly Arts Center 15,000 square foot expansion. [Bruce Ackerman/OG]

The clang of hammers and the sizzling sounds of steel being welded is music to the ears of Matt Wardell, CEO and artistic director of the Ocala Symphony Orchestra (OSO).

The Reilly Arts Center, home of the orchestra, is midway through an expansion project that will add nearly 16,000-square feet of space to the historic venue. The endeavor began in January, and is expected to be finished in time for season-opening events in late November.

“Things are going really well,” Wardell said. “All of the underground work is done. The slabs are poured. The masonry is done. They’re going to finish up some of the steelwork in the roof structures by the end of the week.”

Wardell, pointing to neatly stacked piles of materials behind a security gate at the construction site, said they had ordered all the needed items early on, which has worked out given the recent increase in material prices.

“We really haven’t had many cost escalations because of when we procured everything, so we’re lucky in that,” Wardell said.

Wardell noted the new concrete walls that form the black box theater.

“It’s a 60-foot by 60-foot flat floor room with all kinds of theatrical lighting and sound equipment. That will let us do theater in the round, comedy shows, banquets and presentations. It’s going to be a rental space, and people can have events here,” he explained.

Carlos Garcia of Capital Steel is silhouetted at the top of a lift as he installs steel beams on the roof. [Bruce Ackerman/OG]

A new lobby is being created on the north side of the building, facing the Ocala Skate Park across Northeast Ninth Street.

“It’s about four and half times larger than our current lobby. It’s open, with tall ceilings. It’s a really inviting space,” Wardell said. “On the west portion, all along the back, is a multipurpose education center. One big rehearsal room can be used as a green room when we have big artists. We’ve got six rooms that can serve as office, rehearsal or music studio spaces. We’re going to do community guitar classes and band for young kids and have space for private lessons for OSO musicians and their students.”

The expansion includes a new concession area and catering kitchen.

Wardell said the OSO typically opens each new season in mid to late October, but they “didn’t want to push these guys too much, and we want this to be done when we have that opening night on Nov. 20. So far, we’re on track.”

The Reilly Arts Center is named in honor of Robert Reilly, a philanthropist and patron of the arts who donated $700,000 toward the initial renovation of the former city auditorium in memory of his late wife, Bonnie. There are naming opportunities for the expansion as well.

“The Reilly team is actively seeking donations of $25,000 or more to support this capital campaign,” said Pamela Calero Wardell, executive director of the venue. “Significant donations include naming rights for the black box theatre, lobby, mainstage auditorium, box office and programming through our arts conservatory.”

To learn about naming opportunities, contact Calero Wardell at (352) 351-1606, ext. 102, or For information about the center, visit

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