Kansas University is planning a major expansion to the Lied Center, a campus performance venue used to showcase everything from distinguished lecturers to grand opera and Willie Nelson.
The additions would include a new 800-seat auditorium, sculpture garden, art gallery and classrooms. It also would allow for significantly more performances than the 144 that took place last year at the Lied Center.
"The Lied's already a great resource for the university," said Steve Hedden, dean of the School of Fine Arts. "With this expansion, it's going to be an even stronger asset for the community and the region. It's an even greater capability we're going to have."
A fund-raising drive for the expansion was announced Saturday after the performance of the opera "Carmen."
The Lied Foundation of Las Vegas has issued a $7.5 million challenge grant for the structure, officials said.
Under the grant arrangement, KU would receive $7.5 million, if it raises an additional $7.5 million by June 30. If not, the foundation will instead donate $5 million.
Ross and Marianna Kistler Beach, of Lawrence, have pledged the first $1 million toward the matching grant.
"We've got a short time frame," said Tim Van Leer, Lied Center director. "We're grateful for the Beach gift to kick that off."
Van Leer said the 800-seat auditorium would provide a more intimate setting for chamber music, lectures and School of Fine Arts performances than is provided by the current auditorium, which seats 2,000 people.
"The (new) theater is going to provide us the opportunity to grow," he said. "It'll also give us more flexibility in what we do, to meet the future growth of performing arts in our community."
The auditorium would be on one level, without a balcony. It would be built east of the existing Lied Center facility.
The addition also will include a 9,000-square-foot art gallery, an outdoor sculpture garden and an education center for performers to have master classes, especially for school children.
The Lied Foundation donated $13 million to have the existing Lied Center constructed in 1993. The center is named for Ernst M. and Ida K. Lied, parents of Ernst F. Lied, a KU student in the 1920s. Ernst F. Lied owned an automobile business and was a real estate broker. The foundation was established after his death in 1980.
Christina Hixon, the foundation's lone trustee, declined an interview request but issued a statement through the KU Endowment Association.
"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."
The Beaches previously have donated nearly $1.8 million for the university's Beach Center on Disability, which serves individuals with disabilities and their families.
Hedden, the fine arts dean, said KU officials would be hard at work to secure the $7.5 million challenge grant.
"We certainly have a challenge ahead of us," he said. "The Lied Center's very much the front porch of the university. We'll certainly hope the community responds."