With its innovative and vibrant performance spaces and studios, the University of Central Florida’s new Performing Arts Center was the star of a focus breakfast Wednesday in downtown Orlando.

The center’s first phase, which opened this fall, enhances the academic experience for students in the performing arts with multiple teaching studios and voice rooms, an electro-acoustic music lab, percussion ensemble rooms and a recording studio.

Its second phase, which will be funded by private donations, will host first-class theatre and music performances for UCF and the surrounding communities to enjoy.

“We have been an excellent partner to arts organizations throughout the area,” UCF President John C. Hitt told guests at the Ballroom at Church Street. “Now it is time for that commitment to the performing arts to be expressed on our own great campus.”

The new space will not only help with recruiting future artists, but also will drive Central Florida’s economy. Recent estimates report that Florida’s nonprofit arts and cultural organizations generated about $2.8 billion in direct spending in 2007 and another $3.4 billion from indirect spending, which translated into about 73,000 jobs statewide.

“At UCF, we understand the contribution that our great state university can make to the economic well-being of our Central Florida city-state,” President Hitt said.

In addition to adding economic value, the arts contribute to Central Florida’s cultural vitality and help communities better understand the human experience.

During Wednesday’s breakfast, Board of Trustees Chair Rick Walsh also paid tribute to the university’s founding president, Charles Millican, who died Dec. 1.

“Charlie loved the theatre and musical performances,” he said. “In fact, one of his and Frances’ favorite nights of the year was a special performance by the UCF orchestra alongside the fountain behind Millican Hall.”

UCF is one of only a few universities in the country to have a theatre lighting lab where students can learn the skills necessary to light everything from a theatrical production to a rock ‘n’ roll show.

The second phase of the Performing Arts Center will feature a 600-seat concert hall and two theaters with 520 and 225 seats respectively, as well as costume, scene and prop shops.

“The UCF Performing Arts Center will help students in Music and Theatre achieve their dreams by learning, rehearsing and performing on stages equal to all the great stages where their dreams take place,” Walsh said.

Walsh also praised the new center’s customized spaces for UCF Music and Theatre students.

“Each room is built differently based on its acoustic needs, and indeed the building itself is tuned to allow those who come through it to experience the life and energy within,” he said. “Everything from the floor to angles of the walls is constructed for the artists who will use them.”

The Performing Arts Center is designed to have a small carbon footprint with abundant natural lighting. UCF is seeking silver-level Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification, the widely accepted benchmark for buildings that are environmentally friendly and healthy for occupants.

For more information on the center and how to donate to its second phase, visit http://foundation.cah.ucf.edu/pac.php.