State of the Arts Blog

Photos: A new Orchestra Hall is ready — and waiting

A view of the new Orchestra Hall lobby looking east. The expansion doubles the size of the lobby, adds many accessibility features, and makes audience movement in and out of the hall easier (MPR photo/Jeff Thompson)

The new Orchestra Hall is ready for business -- whenever that may be possible given the current lockout of musicians for the Minnesota Orchestra.

Orchestra officials took media on a tour this morning to show off the results of the year-long $52 million renovation project.

There's a lot of change that is easy to see, including a huge multi-level lobby. Overlooking Peavey Plaza is the new Target Atrium, which can function both as a meeting room and a performance space. It will be the new home of pre-concert talks, which until now have had to be held in the hall itself. The atrium also features large doors which can open the space onto the plaza outside.

Here's a photo gallery from Orchestra Hall. The story continues below.

The building is now much more accessible, with an escalator and elevators. Its lobby is nearly double its original size and features huge windows looking out onto the street, with several seating areas and a number of bars so patrons can seek refreshment before, during and after concerts.

Also included in the renovations are many more bathrooms. There are improved backstage facilities for performers, with larger locker rooms and new practice rooms.

In the hall itself, there are almost 400 fewer seats, but they are now wider with more legroom.

"It's an industry standard -- except for the airlines," Orchestra General Manager Bob Neu said with a laugh.

The auditorium also has a new color scheme, a soft gray as opposed to the sunset orange of the past.

There is a lot which is not apparent to the eye: a new sprinkler system, a new sound system, and a host of acoustic improvements onstage.

Neu said those these changes will not affect the audience listening experience, but will help address a longstanding concern of musicians by allowing players on the sides of the stage to better hear their colleagues on the other side.

The new Orchestra Hall is already being used for private functions: corporate meetings, and the burgeoning wedding business, New said.

There are also a number of non-orchestral concerts scheduled, including dates for VocalEssence and the Greater Twin Cities Your Symphony.