Bradley Symphony Center opening delayed by flooding

The former Warner Grand Theatre is being redeveloped into the Bradley Symphony Center. (Rendering: Kahler Slater)

Last updated on August 25th, 2020 at 10:38 am

The opening of the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra’s new downtown home, once slated for this fall, has been pushed back to January 2021 due to significant flood damage, the orchestra announced Monday.

MSO said the basement of the Bradley Symphony Center, located at 200 W. Wisconsin Ave., sustained damage during an intense rainstorm and steam tunnel failure on May 18. The organization has been working since 2018 on its $139 million project to convert the former Warner Grand Theater into a concert hall and offices for the orchestra. It originally expected to complete the project by September.

The project’s construction team, led by C.D. Smith Construction, has been working over the summer to repair the damage while also working to complete the redevelopment project, MSO said.

The orchestra also announced Monday it would convert its entire 2020-’21 season into a virtual season, citing the project delay and the COVID-19 health crisis. MSO said it’s likely large-scale gatherings will not be a possibility when the symphony center opens in January.

“After careful thought and consideration, both of these challenges pointed us towards providing a certain, high-quality virtual experience for our supporters,” said Mark Niehaus, president and executive director of the MSO. “The selected works will be a reflection of the time in which we live and will brilliantly be brought to life through speakers and screens thanks to our world-class musicians and our innovative conductor and music director, Ken- David Masur. While we wish we could be together sooner, we look forward to the day when we can officially open the doors of the Bradley Symphony Center to our community. It will be well worth the wait.”

The virtual season will be available for subscribers beginning in January and will feature 12 classics performances and four pops performances via live streaming and on-demand. MSO’s previously announced 2020-‘21 season was set to begin in October.

“I’m filled with joy and anticipation on behalf of the orchestra and staff that we have made a commitment not to go dark,” said Ken-David Masur, music director of the MSO. “We have thrilling programs, and an opportunity to showcase our incredible musicians in a way never before possible. Since the pandemic began, the members of our orchestra have creatively pursued opportunities to stay connected to the community by playing on their front porches or driveways for neighbors and passersby; creating engaging on-line content; and gifting the community with their socially distant compilation of Elgar’s ‘Nimrod.’ With this same passion for connection, we will pour our hearts into creating a virtual season that will transcend our physical distance and continue the perpetual wonder that is music.”

MSO said its Arts in Community Education program will also go digital this school year, providing area schools with taped ensemble performances and educational programming free of charge.

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