What a difference a little space makes!
In the early 1990s, when construction bids for the Lied Center on Kansas University’s West Campus came in over budget, difficult choices had to be made. At the time, scaling back the size of the center’s main lobby probably was a better choice than making additional cuts in the performance hall.
Lied Center patrons had grown accustomed to tight quarters in the lobby, but now they have some room to spread out. Thanks to a $2.5 million gift from the Lied Foundation and $300,000 from the William T. Kemper Foundation, the lobby has been bumped out to its originally planned size. A ribbon-cutting ceremony for the 1,800-square-foot expansion is planned for next Tuesday, but the new space has been open to Lied Center audiences for several weeks.
Lied Center patrons already enjoyed a world-class auditorium, but the lobby expansion makes a huge difference in the center’s ambiance and functions. During busy times before and after performances, the smaller lobby was crowded and difficult to traverse. It was almost impossible to stop and have a conversation with someone without interrupting the traffic flow.
Lied Center staff say they already are seeing a difference in how their patrons interact in the new lobby. People in line to buy concessions at intermission no longer fill up the lobby. Rather than rushing to and from the door to their seats, people are more likely to stop and chat with fellow audience members. The new space encourages social interactions and provides additional space for displays or events related to various performances.
Construction also is under way on a new education pavilion, also funded by the additional Lied gift. The 60-by-40-foot space will be used for a variety of purposes. Lied officials say it will be a good rehearsal space and also will be available for educational activities, pre-performance dinners and other events. About the only space for such events now is the Seymour Gallery, which also serves as the second-floor lobby, causing a variety of logistical problems for events on performance nights.
The Lied Center is such a wonderful gift for the people of Lawrence and across the state. The recent lobby expansion and the education pavilion are more than amenities for the center; they vastly enhance the facility’s function and ability to bring a variety of performing arts experiences to area residents.
Once again, the KU community has reason to thank the Lied Foundation and its sole trustee, Christina Hixson, for a gift that will keep on giving for generations to come.