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The Utah Shakespeare Festival on Thursday announced plans to build a $26.5 million theater on the campus of Southern Utah University in Cedar City.

After seven years of fundraising, the nonprofit professional theater company has raised $18 million, and are still seeking another $8.5 million, according to executive director R. Scott Phillips.

"We've been in the fundraising process for so long, I don't even know when it started, I was so young," said the 80-something Fred C. Adams, who co-founded the festival with his wife, Barbara, in 1961.

Construction is set to being in fall 2013 and will create some 300 construction jobs over the two-year building period. "The most significant impact of the new theater is that it will extend the festival theater season by 25 percent into the fall and winter months," said co-artistic director Brian Vaughn.

The new theater will be designed with a retractable roof, and will seat 900 people, which promoters say will draw an additional 30,000 patrons annually. It will be built two blocks east of the festival's iconic Adams Shakespearean Theatre, which will remain in operation during construction. "We can't afford to miss a season," Phillips said.

Architects were told "you must create what our audience already knows," Adams said.

Actors, however, are looking forward to more modern facilities, as the current outdoor theater has a five-foot tunnel — originally a heating and air-conditiong viaduct — that provides the only access to basement dressing rooms. And the only bathrooms are in nearby campus buildings.

The new theater is thought to be Phase 1 of what's hoped to be a Shakespearean village, a project which was announced in 2005 but has been slowed by the economic recession.