Sumter Opera House to begin $15M renovations this June


A serene stroll into downtown Sumter will bring you sights of unique ceramic butterflies, savory smells from local restaurants and brick buildings filled with history - one in particular being Sumter Opera House.

As one of the city's oldest and most iconic venues for the arts, Sumter Opera House has experienced its fair share of renovations.

It was first destroyed in December 1892 by a fire, and renovations that would produce its current exterior would be completed in 1895. The venue would serve as a movie theater, its debut showing being "Earthworm Tractors," costing 35 cents for adult tickets and 10 cents for children. The venue would close its doors in 1982 before reopening in 1984 after being purchased by the City of Sumter and renovated into office space by 1987.

While its rear is still home to many city department offices, including City Council chambers, its front still shines as a focal point for the city and the arts community. And it will soon undergo a makeover meant to better utilize its space and its purpose.

Beginning no later than June, the Opera House will break ground on its $15 million renovation first proposed by South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster in 2020.

"Renovations have always been part of the history of the Opera House. This next renovation step aligned with our mission and vision of being an indispensable cultural asset and providing diverse creative experiences," said Seth Reimer, cultural manager for the City of Sumter. "It may be workshops, it may be master classes, it could be Q and A, it could be meet-and-greets; if the Opera House is going to be around for another 100 years, it's time to step in that direction for our community and in providing diverse creative experiences."

Sketches are still under wraps, but Reimer detailed plans to expand the venue's lobby and entrance along with its dressing room and backstage amenities, connecting the current venue, at 21 N. Main St., to its neighbor at 19 N. Main St. The stage and seating within the house will remain untouched, preserving the intimate vibe the venue is known and loved for.

With these renovations come new opportunities. Though its main doors will be closed until a projected date in 2026, Reimer ensured patrons will still get their fill of the arts in the months to come.

"I hope the different spaces within the Opera House will draw the community in - whether it's historical in nature, entertaining in nature or by invitation, making people feel not only welcome, also that we took the extra time to make it accessible for them," he expressed.

"We're gonna be doing some performances in the City Centre, which is not a part of the renovations. We're going to continue with our YES! Programming and our matinee shows - but those may be in alternate locations throughout the community," Reimer explained. "We're not only trying to invite people to the Opera House for these diverse creative experiences, but also get into the different neighborhoods and the different areas of Sumter that maybe people who aren't able to get transportation here might be able to walk to see a performance."

The Opera House has announced upcoming shows, which include:

Georgia Players Guild's "To the Limit" - March 15

Georgia Players Guild, a tribute show booking agency, will present an electrifying tribute show reminiscent of the timeless spirit of The Eagles. The guild will recreate the Eagles' iconic harmonies and guitar-centric sound, allowing audience members to go on a metaphoric flip through the band's catalog. Expect to hear chart-topping hits like "Hotel California" and soulful ballads like "Desperado" and, most importantly, expect to have a good time. Tickets are on sale for $28-$32.

Celebrating Women Composers with Lois Henry and Kara Grover - March 21

In celebration of Women's History Month and as part of the Opera House's Acoustic Cafe Series, vocalist Kara Grover and pianist/composer Lois Henry will showcase work by historical female composers, including Amy Beach, Fanny Mendelssohn and Florence Price, sharing their latest masterpiece, "BELLESONGS," to honor Colorado mountain woman Belle Turnbull. Tickets are $30.

Ricky Skaggs & Kentucky Thunder - April 5

With more than 60 years in the music industry, Ricky Skaggs is still looking to bring good music and good times to folks everywhere - and Sumter is next. The 15-time Grammy Award winner and 12 consecutive Grammy-nominated mandolin and fiddle master came from bluegrass roots that propelled him into mainstream country music, and he will share his musical stylings with Sumter. Tickets range from $57-$62.

Jukebox Saturday Night - April 26

Take a trip back in time to the 1930s-'50s, when the iconic sounds of Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey, Glenn Miller, Duke Ellington and more filled our jukeboxes. Tickets range from $23 to $28.

More shows will be announced throughout 2024. To stay updated on the latest shows to take center stage, follow the Opera House on social media or sign up for its weekly newsletter at