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University Relations

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Feb. 28, 2005
Contact: John Scarffe, KU Endowment Association, (785) 832-7336.

$8.5 million pledged for Lied Center expansion

LAWRENCE -- University of Kansas officials unveiled plans Saturday for a major expansion of the Lied Center, thanks to a $7.5 million challenge grant from the Lied Foundation Trust and a $1 million commitment from a Lawrence couple.

The Las Vegas-based Lied Foundation, which spearheaded development of the performing arts and education facility in 1988, issued the challenge to the Kansas University Endowment Association. To receive the grant, KU and KU Endowment officials must raise an additional $7.5 million by June 30, 2005. The foundation committed $5 million for the university regardless of whether the challenge is met. The grant brings the total committed for KU by the Lied Foundation to $22.1 million since its first grant for the Lied Center, which was completed in 1993.

To help meet the challenge, Ross and Marianna Kistler Beach of Lawrence, together with Douglas County Bank, have pledged $1 million toward the project. Ross Beach is chairman of the board of Douglas County Bank.

" The Lied Foundation Trust and its trustee, Christina Hixson, are dedicated to bringing the experiences of live performance to as many people as possible, as evidenced by their previous investments in the Lied Center, its programs and outreach activities," Chancellor Robert Hemenway said. "It is our hope to expand that reach by creating a multifaceted arts and education facility. With the enthusiasm for the project shown by donors such as Ross and Marianna Beach, we are confident we will meet the challenge raised by the Lied Foundation."

Hixson said she hoped the challenge grant would expose more people to the performing arts.

" I have been pleased to see the Lied Center touch many people from all walks of life," she said. "The new performance space is an opportunity to build upon this record by bringing more people than ever before to the Lied Center."

Construction plans include an additional performing arts space at the Lied Center that will seat 800 people, a visual arts gallery and educational and lobby space.

Tim Van Leer, Lied Center executive director, announced the gifts at the Saturday evening performance of opera "Carmen." He said the proposed expansion will create a venue for performances better suited to smaller audiences.

" The existing facility, which seats 2,000 people, is great for a performance such as a Broadway show that draws a large audience," he said. "We want to complement that theater with the new addition, which will provide space for much more intimate events such as a string quartet performance."

The new theater will provide space for multi-genre events and will free up the larger facility's calendar for other performing arts and university and community functions, Van Leer said. The addition will extend the Lied Center to the northeast, toward the intersection of Iowa and 15th streets.

The new visual arts gallery will exhibit the work of KU students, faculty and alumni. The gift from the Beaches will fund the gallery, which will be built along the southern edge of the facility.

Steve Hedden, dean of the School of Fine Arts, said the expanded Lied Center also would broaden the facility's connection to the school.

" We're excited that the Lied Center will become an even greater resource to the other components of the School of Fine Arts -- the Department of Art, the Department of Design and the Department of Music and Dance," he said. "The 800-seat hall will be a perfect venue for opera and dance performances, and for concerts by our instrumental and choral ensembles. Additionally, we will gain new capability for sharing the accomplishments of our faculty, students and alumni from Art and Design."

Improvements to be made to the original building of the Lied Center include expanding the lobby to provide more room for performance attendees and adding an elevator to the west side to provide additional access for people with disabilities. The plans also call for an outdoor sculpture garden, dressing rooms, a green room and an educational facility.

" We want a space for all activities in this expansion," Van Leer said, noting that the Lied Center annually offers 150 education events for about 12,000 people, many of them children. "We need the educational space to host public school system workshops for children and teachers, workshops with KU students and facilities for receptions."

The Lied Center is named for Ernst M. and Ida K. Lied, parents of Ernst F. Lied, a KU student in the 1920s and a member of the university's golf team. He later established an automobile business in Omaha, where he lived for many years. In 1958, he began to invest in Las Vegas real estate. After his death in 1980, his estate established the Lied Foundation Trust.

Longtime supporters of KU, the Beaches previously contributed almost $1.8 million for the university's center serving individuals with disabilities and their families. Named the Beach Center on Disability, the center also conducts research and training, and works with professionals and policy leaders.

The challenge grant from the Lied Foundation counted toward the goal of KU First: Invest in Excellence, the third and largest fund-raising campaign for the University of Kansas. KU Endowment conducted KU First on behalf of KU from 1998 until 2004 and raised more than $653 million for scholarships, fellowships, professorships, capital projects and program support. KU Endowment serves as the independent, nonprofit fund-raising and fund-management organization for KU.

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The University of Kansas is a major comprehensive research and teaching university. University Relations is the central public relations office for KU's Lawrence campus.

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