Times Staff Writer

The cost of building the main-theater phase that is to open the Orange County Performing Arts Center next October is now $70.7 million--$13.4 million more than the figure announced before the start of construction in mid-1983, center officials disclosed Tuesday night.

William Lund, center board chairman, said if the $13.4-million increase appears startling, it's because "we decided against announcing cost boosts every few months, and decided to announce it in one big final number." He added, "These (new costs) are very normal--incremental ones that are a natural part of building any complex of this magnitude."

Meantime, Timothy Strader, center board president, said the new cost estimate is "as firm and realistic a figure as possible" for constructing the center's opening phase (a 3,000-seat multipurpose theater and a 500-seat studio-type facility.) "We're confident that this figure is the one that will carry us to completion (of the phase)," he said.

Interest costs since 1983--$4.1 million higher than originally estimated--constituted the largest part of the cost boost for the main-theater phase, Strader said. Additional costs involving design, equipment and other technical features, nearly all of them approved before this summer, accounted for another $3.6 million.

Other major categories included $2.3 million for additional architectural and consultant fees, $1 million in changes to meet building code requirements and $1 million for a contingency reserve.

In addition, the installation of a redesigned acoustic stage shell, originally budgeted at $350,000, will now cost $700,000--a figure that reflects "operational improvements" that will be less costly in the long run, said Thomas Kendrick, who took over as center executive director Sept. 9. Kendrick pointed out that only $1.8 million of the $13.4-million increase included design and other revisions that he and Judith Morr, the new general manager, have recommended. These changes, he said, were all based on cutting operational costs.

To date, $51.2 million, all in private donations, has been raised to build the complex. (An additional $26 million has been raised for an endowment fund to help maintain and operate the center.)

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