New Northrop readies debut

Three years in the making, the new Northrop aims to be a cultural hub for students and the state.

The University hosted a media tour of Northrop Memorial Auditorium on Thursday afternoon. After three years of construction, Northrop is scheduled to re-open spring 2014.

Chelsea Gortmaker

The University hosted a media tour of Northrop Memorial Auditorium on Thursday afternoon. After three years of construction, Northrop is scheduled to re-open spring 2014.

Roy Aker

Most current University of Minnesota students have yet to set foot in Northrop Memorial Auditorium.

But after a three-year, $88.2 million renovation, Northrop will reopen its doors April 4 with the American Ballet Theater performing “Giselle,” accompanied by a live orchestra.

“In the daily life of our students, Northrop too often was a magnificent and beloved campus landmark [students] walked by on their way to somewhere else,” Karen Hanson, vice president for academic affairs and provost, said at a press conference Thursday.

In addition to performances and lectures, including one from former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice on April 17, the new Northrop will be home to three University academic programs: the Institute for Advanced Study, the University Honors Program and the College of Design’s Travelers Innovation Lab.

“We thought carefully about how to reconfigure the space so that we can get the most out of it — not just as a performance facility and a cultural heart to our campus, but also as an academic contributor,” said Pam Wheelock, vice president for University Services.

The 2,700-seat, three-balcony main auditorium is down from its former 4,847-seat capacity.

Wheelock said Northrop can still serve concert and dance performance markets with “state-of-the-art” technology.

“We feel that we have an alternative for promoters that are looking to bring the kind of artists that would come to the Orpheum,” she said.

UHP Director Serge Rudaz said in a press release that University honors students will display their work in Northrop’s galleries and performance space when it opens.

HGA Architects and Engineers designed the renovation.

Tim Carl, the project’s lead designer, said the plan aimed to optimize seating capacity and maximize the auditorium’s acoustic experience. Designers also wanted to integrate new public spaces for all students to use.

“The University’s vision for this — the one they charged us with when we started — was to make this really the crossroads of the campus as it’s intended to be,” he said during a tour Thursday.

Funding for programs

Northrop Director Christine Tschida said that after Northrop’s student services fees appropriation for the 2012-13 academic year fell short of its request, she feels confident it can “make a good case” for itself next year once the University community realizes how useful the renovated space is.

“Our goal is really to get as many students as possible in Northrop and involved in all the things that Northrop has to offer,” she said.

The renovation opened up more than 10,000 square feet of new, public space for student use.

Tschida said Northrop is trying to use its existing funding from student services fees to offer as much programming as possible.

She also said Northrop has a new registered student group that has been working with University Services and will be able to advocate for it in the fees process.