RED BANK — The Count Basie Theater broke ground on a $23 million expansion on Wednesday.

The project includes an outdoor performing arts plaza, a modernized backstage area and state-of-the art production technologies, expanded lobby, a new heating and air conditioning system, areas for concessions, expanded restrooms and modern, barrier-free amenities.

The Count Basie was first opened in 1926 and is listed on the National Register of Historic Places in America

(Mark Sullivan via the Count Basie Theatre)

E Street Band member Little Steven Van Zandt, who serves with his wife Maureen as the honorary chairmen of the project, spoke at the ceremony. He called the expansion an example of what can be done on a local level with when there is enough passion and respect for the arts.

"It is an essential part of life," Van Zandt said.

The Jay and Linda Grunin Foundation announced a $2 million gift and the creation of the Jay and Linda Grunin Arts and Education Building. It will house studios, classrooms and administrative offices for the Basie’s growing arts education programs, as well as a second performance venue.

The new Rock n' Rohl Rooftop Lounge, named after campaign donors Mark and Denise Rohl, will open on top of the Grunin building

“It is a momentous day, and one that could not have happened without the support of many people and organizations," Tom Widener, chairman of the Count Basie Theatre Board of Trustees said. "Particular thanks are due to the Grunin Foundation and my fellow board member Jeremy Grunin, plus Citi, the Asbury Park Press, Nancy Mulheren, Carol Stillwell, Maryann Larkin, Maggie Riker, Mark and Karey Hogan, the Rohl’s and many others in making significant gifts to this campaign."

Contact reporter Dan Alexander at dan.alexander@townsquaremedia.com.

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