File photo by Adam David Kissick
Raleigh's Memorial Auditorium—home to events such as the IBMA Awards, Hopscotch and Carolina Ballet—will close for extended portions of the year. Seen here, Sunn O))) performs in Memorial at Hopscotch 2012.
Raleigh’s Memorial Auditorium will be closed for much of this year for renovations to the Duke Energy Center for Performing Arts’ HVAC system.
Jim Lavery, manager of the Raleigh Convention Center, said the HVAC systems for all four theaters in the Performing Arts Center will be replaced.
“But Memorial is the older girl. She needs the most work,” Lavery said.
The city has the $10 million project—a budget line item as part of the ongoing Capital Improvement Project— currently out on bid.
The first closing will be from June 23 to July 21; Memorial will open for the Broadway show The Little Mermaid
for two weeks at the end of July and into early August.
“The renovations are staged to ensure that none of the shows in production were affected,” said Lisa Grele Barrie, CEO of NC Theatre, which is hosting two Broadway shows in Memorial this year. They're also hosting one in the neighboring Fletcher Opera Theater.
“We are delighted the city is investing money in needed repairs, both in air and cooling and also cosmetic stage enhancements that will enhance the production quality and comfort of the audience in-house and the actors on stage,” she continued.
Memorial will be closed through August and September; it will open for the International Bluegrass Music Association Awards October 2
before closing again until November 23.
Lavery said the renovations to the building will be finished in time for the big-ticket holiday shows, the Carolina Ballet’s annual production of The Nutcracker
and Theater in the Park's A Christmas Carol
"The highly physical nature of our work makes temperature control not only an issue of comfort, but one of safety, which has presented challenges in the past for dancers and patrons alike," said Nathan McGaha, the general manger of Carolina Ballet. "We are thrilled that this majestic landmark will be updating its systems this year...We are confident that by December of 2014 we will be experiencing the warmth of Nutcracker
and the holiday season at Raleigh Memorial Auditorium."
Hopscotch Music Festival, which takes place September 4-6, will be affected by Memorial Auditorium’s closing.
“It’s out of our control,” said Greg Lowenhagen, the festival’s director. “We have been looking for alternatives for an indoor space in downtown Raleigh, but unfortunately the options are few and far between for a venue of that size and that caliber.”
Lowenhagen said Hopscotch will announce its 2014 footprint in mid-February.
“We’ll take our lumps, or find suitable replacements that could add up to the capacity we had at Memorial ,” he said. “It’s unfortunate but we don’t think it will adversely affect the festival. It will just take us back to the footprint we had previously. It may be slightly smaller than in 2013.”
Lavery said the work on Memorial Auditorium is extensive and has to be done.
“We have duct work in there from the ’30s,” he said.
Lavery said there is more money available in the budget for other improvements, including painting, re-carpeting, improvements to the lobby, bathrooms and concession areas. Those funds would roll over if there isn’t enough time to do that work this year.