Photo courtesy of David Grissom.
Located on Data Drive in Hoover since 1993, the Stardome is co-owned and operated by Bruce and CheChe Ayers and their daughters. Pictured from left: Dena Dow, CheChe Ayers, Bruce Ayers and Gina Zimmerman.
An unchanged look for more than two decades was no laughing matter to Stardome Comedy Club owner Bruce Ayers. So he decided it was time for some major improvements, to the tune of more than $500,000.
Now, when patrons pull into the parking lot, they will notice a newly painted building and a freshened landscape.
But that’s only the opening act.
The 14,500-square-foot building — once a dinner theater — had undergone some improvements after the Ayers took over, but he said it had remained virtually unchanged for 23 years.
“It was time for an update,” he said. “The people who come here really enjoy it, but we wanted to make it even better. We started in March, and barely anything was left untouched with the renovations.”
While the work included new floors and paint, the primary focus of the project was the various “rooms” available for luncheons, banquets and private and corporate events.
The Stardome has made its home at 1818 Data Drive in Hoover since 1993 and has hosted top-notch entertainers such as Cedric the Entertainer, Margaret Cho and Jeff Dunham and his puppets. Ayers and his wife, CheChe, own the club with daughters Gina Zimmerman and Dena Dow. The club gave Steve Harvey his first headline job, and the comedian has described the Stardome as “the best comedy club in the country.”
And with the newly renovated insides, the club now can do more than offer side-splitting laughs.
The 70-seat Broadway Room, with new sound system and lighting, is an ideal space for mystery dinner theater, open mic shows and private parties, Ayers said.
The Blues Bar underwent a complete transformation and was gutted for new equipment, new bar and “a new look,” he said. It’s joined by the addition of the Star Bar, a newly created space.
“We wanted to offer our customers more and better bar service, and this addition will accomplish just that,” Ayers said.
The renovations also included redone restrooms and another building exit.
“This makes it much easier when people are exiting after the first show of the evening while others are entering for the second,” he said.
The Showroom is the primary entertainment area, and it is done in a Las Vegas style with tiered- and floor-dining seating and VIP skyboxes.
After studying the room layout, Ayers and his architect decided to reduce the seating capacity from 420 to 400.
“This is an awesome room, but frankly, the seating was tight, plus many people were not actually facing the stage,” Ayers said. “Now it’s more intimate with everyone facing the stage, which has been completely redone with the guidance of a Hollywood set designer. And all the sound, lighting and electronics are new and state-of-the-art.”
Mike Gibson is an architect and president of Appleseed Workshop, a Birmingham design and building group that was key in the Stardome renovations.
“Bruce had a lot of offers to move the club downtown but, like the Appleseed Workshop, thinks the first and best choice is to find the value in what is already there,” Gibson said. “The Stardome was kind of 1980s dark,’ so we worked to make it feel lighter and more open with a modern finish. We only had about three weeks to do it, but it was great to come into a space that hadn’t had anything done in a long time and breathe new life into it.”
Sylinda Daniel, senior account executive for the Hoover Chamber of Commerce, was one of the early patrons to attend a Stardome show following the building’s makeover.
“I’ve been there many times, but I really love the new look, the new setup, and the sound and lighting were amazing,” Daniel said. “The Stardome is so conveniently located and has always been a great asset to the city. I’ll definitely be back.”
Those are the kind of words Ayers, who has been in the entertainment business since 1975, said he likes to hear.
“My wife and I could have retired long ago, but this is what our family does; it’s our passion, and we’re very proud of the Stardome and to be part of the great city of Hoover,” he said. “For us, it’s all about raising the level of experience, so when you come, you say, ‘This was so great.’”
For more information, go to stardome.com.