City breaks ground on a downtown performing arts center

MSUFCU gives $1 million for naming rights


(Because of a reporting error, a previous version of this story said the performing arts center will be four stories high. It will be two stories high. The story also should have said that cable fees come from AT&T and Metronet as well as Comcast.)

WEDNESDAY, June 28 — City of Lansing officials broke ground this morning on the Ovation downtown performing arts center and announced a $1 million, five-year partnership with Michigan State University Federal Credit Union for naming rights.

"We need a place with national acts coming," Mayor Andy Schor told scores of area public officials who braved the dangerous air conditions. "Now we are breaking ground to do that."

The city has raised $18 million  — and hopes to bring in another $9 million — for a complex that will feature a performance hall, administrative offices and a partially enclosed third-floor bar and restaurant at the corner of Washington Avenue and Lenawee Street.

The hall, which will have a mezzanine, will seat about 1,400 and hold 2,100 standing. The centerpiece will be a proscenium stage with curtains. However, the space will not have the capacity and rigging systems to move scenery, so it will be unable to accommodate large-scale productions.

Dominic Cochran, who is spearheading the efforts for the city, said the goal is to open the performing arts facility in early 2025. Cochran said the group is still working to raise another $9 million and is hoping for more to create a facility endowment for future updates and maintenance.

The $18 million it has raised includes $7 million from the state, $750,000 from the federal government, $1 million from MSUFCU and another $700,000 in donations, and  $8.5 million in upfront funding from cable fees that Comcast, AT&T and Metronet pass on to the city.  The City Council has approved up  to $20 million in bonds  to pay for construction and other expenses while the promised support comes in.

Exactly what it will be called is still up in the air, but the name will reflect both Ovation and MSUFCU for the first five years, Cochran said.

The single biggest undetermined cost variable is what sound and lighting systems the new facility will use.

“The thing with lighting and sound systems is you can basically spend however much you want to,” Cochran said. “If you have a hundred-million-dollar budget, you can easily spend a hundred million dollars,” adding that the system will depend on continued fundraising.

The city-owned Lansing Public Media Center, of which Cochran is director, will also find a permanent home in an updated existing building near the new building. In the meantime, its current home at the South Washington Office Complex is set to be uprooted by the end of the year to make way for the city’s planned public safety complex. Cochran said his operations will likely land in the northern suites of the Capital Avenue Parking Ramp where Gibson’s bookstore and coffee shop used to be at Capital and Shiawassee Street across from Lansing Community College.

He said he hopes the new media center portion will be completed by autumn of 2024, allowing his programming to move in and get settled as the performing arts facility is finished.

Officials have not determined if they will run the restaurant on the rooftop as a city function or put out a request for proposals for an entrepreneur to do so.


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