MU plan includes new arts event hall

MU Chancellor Brady Deaton emphasized the need for a new performing arts facility.
Tuesday, December 12, 2006 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 10:56 a.m. CDT, Sunday, July 13, 2008

As MU continues to grow, so does the demand for the campus’ main event hall, Jesse Auditorium. Some people, including MU Chancellor Brady Deaton, say the solution is a new performing arts facility.

“Many, many groups try to get time in Jesse Hall, and Jesse Hall is almost entirely booked up,” said Bill Bondeson, consultant to the vice chancellor for development and alumni affairs. “There’s a lot going on.”

The facility appears on MU’s 2006 Campus Master Plan, and would include a 2,200-seat auditorium near the corner of Hitt Street and University Avenue. Jesse Auditorium seats about 1,700 people.

Although Deaton has emphasized the need for the facility, the project is still in the early planning stages. Bondeson said several steps must be completed before the project can begin. A plan would need to be created for the facility before it would be possible to estimate the cost of construction.

“It’s very hard to put an actual timeline on this,” Bondeson said. “We need to have a substantial amount of funding in place. The funding would not be trivial, that’s for sure.”

Funding will come from private donations, Bondeson said. A portion could come from the $1 billion For All We Call Mizzou campaign that had raised $727 million as of the end of October.

The idea for a new performing arts center originated with former Chancellor Richard Wallace in 2002. Wallace’s original plan involved the construction of a $320 million “Arts Village” on the southeast corner of the MU campus. Construction costs would have been funded by leasing seven acres of university property at the corner of Stadium Boulevard and College Avenue to a developer. However, the land lease plan failed to gain legislative approval and the idea was abandoned.

In addition to the construction of a performing arts center, the current plan calls for a new music building, which Bondeson said would cost an estimated $70 million. The music department would relocate to the new facility. MU’s Fine Arts Building would be renovated, and the art and theater departments, which currently share the building with the music department, would occupy the entire space.

John Murray, the manager of Jesse Auditorium, said the auditorium hosts more than 200 events each year. Demand is highest in the middle of each semester, and Murray said he is forced to turn away people seeking time in the auditorium. Any recognized student organization or university department can use the auditorium free of charge, but access to other organizations is limited because time slots fill up quickly.

“I’m already booking into 2008,” he said.

However, scheduling problems aren’t the only issues with Jesse Auditorium, said Edward Dolbashian, director of University Philharmonic. The auditorium was designed to meet a wide variety of needs such as lectures and graduations, which makes it less than ideal for orchestra performances and other musical events.

“The nature of Jesse is that it’s an all-purpose facility, and as a result, it doesn’t do any one thing very well,” Dolbashian said. “There’s a real lack of resonance and ambiance to the entire hall.”

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