FLORENCE, Ala. — If you live in or around the Shoals, chances are you’ve visited Norton Auditorium at least once. The iconic venue is more than just a theater and event space for the University of North Alabama; it's an entertainment hub for the entire Shoals area.
Years before the Von Braun Center opened in Huntsville, the Auditorium and Fine Arts Center, as it was called in 1968, was entertaining audiences with theater productions and performances by the many artists who visited the Shoals to record.
“When Norton Auditorium was first built, it was the largest venue in the area until they built the Von Braun Center and the BJCC, so there were a lot of artists that came through like Tom Petty and Bob Dylan and Dolly Parton and the list goes on and on," said Norton Assistant Technical Director Ethan Franks.
Now after more than 50 years, Norton is undergoing its first major renovation.
“Currently the plans are to replace all the seating, replace all the rigging, and add acoustical shells to the stage," said Vice President of Facilities, Administration, & Planning Michael Gautney. "Make some minor upgrades to the stage flooring itself—hopefully, bring it into the 21st-century.”
Franks has worked in Norton for more than six years and is excited about the change. “It’s going to reflect really well on the university that the space looks as professional as it’s going to," said Franks.
Annual events that normally take place in Norton are being held in various theaters around the Shoals. Norton is expected to reopen in March.