Pioneer Press: Ordway announces simple names for new spaces

Chris Hewitt, Pioneer Press 6/12/14

As construction at St. Paul’s Ordway Center for the Performing Arts begins to take shape, the addition is also getting a name. Or rather, names.

The new, 1,100-seat concert hall — replacing the 300-seat McKnight Theatre, which was torn down — will take the low-key name of Concert Hall. A plaque will note the contributions of John and Ruth Huss, donors to the Ordway for more than three decades.

The naming news came at a ceremony to raise the final beam in the project Monday evening.

“One of the great things about a lot of donors, particularly here in Minnesota, is that they do it because of the value of what they are doing, not for the acknowledgment, and I think John and Ruth are a great example of that. They’re doing this because they believe in it,” said Kevin Ramach, president of both the Minnesota Opera and the Arts Partnership, which consists of the opera, the Ordway, the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra and the Schubert Club.

The lack of a corporate name seems to fit, Ramach said, because the Ordway’s other venue is known simply as the Music Theater.

The first name that patrons will encounter when they approach the building is 3M, whose name will be on 3M Plaza, encompassing the first-floor lobby and the area in front of the theater, which is expected to open in February. In addition to being the largest corporate sponsor, 3M has a historic connection to the Ordway. Sally Ordway Irvine, whose gift kicked things off for the performing arts center in 1980, was the granddaughter of 3M investor Lucius Pond Ordway.

Other named areas in the new facility are the Target Atrium and the Securian Sky Lobby and Securian Balcony Lobby, acknowledging corporations that have been in on the project from the beginning.

The Arts Partnership also announced that $80 million has been raised for the building, exceeding the goal by a million dollars. Ramach said fundraising continues, though, to finance the Arts Partnership’s endowment and to offset about $800,000 in cost overruns.

Seeing the building come together has Ramach excited about the amount of activity there will be in the new, improved Ordway.

“When you think about the fact that on any given night not only is there going to be a performance in the Music Theater — a big opera, say — but we’re also going to have great concerts at the same time next door,” Ramach said. “It’s going to be exciting to be down there to see a couple different audiences crossing over.”

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