SHIPSHEWANA - Blue Gate Theatre has announced plans for a new, 1,500-seat theater space at the Blue Gate Performing Arts Center in Shipshewana. The company says it plans to break ground on the $3 million space before May, with construction expected to be complete by January.

Blue Gate says its concert schedule, limitations of the current space and improving customer experience played key roles in the decision to build the new theater. Phil Heyerly, vice president and co-owner of Blue Gate Theatre, says the new space will reduce the distance from the stage to the most distant seat by a third and increase the number of patrons able to attend each concert.

President and co-owner Ryan Riegsecker adds the new space will also have an increased staging area to accommodate larger productions.

"There are many performers who require the area above a stage and the mechanicals to support the lights and sound they travel with be a certain size or be configurable to their needs," said Riegsecker. "Our current space fails to accommodate many of the more production-intensive shows, but the new space will solve many of these restrictions."

The project recently received an economic development grant from the town of Shipshewana and the LaGrange County Economic Development Corp. totaling more $377,000 over 10 years. Town Manager Bob Shanahan said the project will "improve the community's quality of place and create increased economic activity."

The Blue Gate Performing Arts Center was formerly known as the Shipshewana Event Center/Hudson Car Museum.