By Associated Press - Monday, October 26, 2015

RED BANK, N.J. (AP) - An 89-year-old New Jersey theater will get a major face-lift in the coming years that will transform it into an arts, entertainment and education campus spanning a whole block.

Officials announced Monday that the Count Basie Theatre in Red Bank will get a $20 million expansion over three years that will include a bolstered arts-education program and new classrooms.

The current theater, which sits near the site where jazz great Count Basie grew up, will receive stage and lighting upgrades, along with a new dressing room, artists’ lounge and expansion of the load-in area, officials said. The project calls for offices, classrooms and a new performance space next to the theater.

More than 200,000 people come through the theater’s doors every year and officials hope the upgrades attract more name-brand acts and broadway-level shows.

“Being iconic doesn’t insulate you from trends, you need to evolve,” Red Bank Mayor Pasquale Menna said. Menna said the project is expected to boost the theater’s local economic and called it “a catalyst for economic growth.”

The project will be entirely funded by donors and it won’t start it until the money is raised, officials said. They hope to break ground by 2018 or 2019.

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