MSO makes final push in $139 million Warner Grand Theatre project campaign

Has raised more than $120 million

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

The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra has raised another $4 million over the past two months toward the $139 million campaign goal for its Warner Grand Theatre restoration project.

The MSO today announced the campaign has brought in more than $120 million to fund the renovation of the former theater at 212 W. Wisconsin Ave. into the orchestra’s new rehearsal and performance space.

In August, the project reached a major construction milestone when crews moved the historic theater’s 650-ton rear wall back by 35 feet, into Second Street, to accommodate a larger stage inside the theater. At that time, Mark Niehaus, president and executive director of MSO, said the campaign had raised $116 million.

Now, the MSO is beginning the final phase of its largest-ever campaign as it seeks to raise the last $19 million.

“Words cannot adequately express our gratitude for the donors who committed so generously to this project in our early phase,” Niehaus said.  “Thanks to their confidence and support, we have already broken ground on a new future for the MSO and for West Wisconsin Avenue. This early support also allowed us to plan so that we could remain on time and on budget, meeting critical milestones throughout the duration of the project.”

Lead donations have come from Donna and Donald Baumgartner, The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, Murph and John Burke, Bobbi and Jim Caraway, Franklyn and Barbara Esenberg, Herzfeld Foundation, George and Donna Kaiser, The Estate of Jane Kaiser, Donald and JoAnne Krause, Billie Kubly, Arthur and Nancy Laskin, Sheldon and Marianne Lubar, The Marcus Corp., The Marcus Corp. Foundation, Mary Vandenberg and Keith Mardak, Rite-Hite Foundation, Michael and Jeanne Schmitz, Bud and Sue Selig, The Estate of Barbara Abert Tooman, David and Julia Uihlein and We Energies Foundation.

The project involves renovating the 88-year-old theater, lobby and concourses of the former Warner Grand Theatre, along with the building’s 12-story office tower. Work is on schedule, with completion expected for September 2020.

Initially, the organization set a $120 million fundraising target for the campaign, but later raised it to $139 million to include the cost of renovating the building’s office tower. The campaign funds will also build up the organization’s endowment.

MSO is running a seat campaign, in which donors can sponsor a seat for gifts of $2,500 to $10,000 for 15-year naming rights.

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