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SEATTLE-The City Council has approved an agreement of understanding reached between the city, the Seattle Opera and the Pacific Northwest Ballet enumerating the conditions for use and management of the newly built $127-million McCaw Hall set to open this weekend.

The 294,935-sf Marion Oliver McCaw Hall is a state-of-the-art replacement for the Opera House at the Seattle Center that began construction in 2001. The project was financed through a combination of city, county, and state dollars and private fundraising efforts on the part of the opera and ballet companies and the Seattle Center Foundation. The hall is named for the mother of wireless technology pioneer Craig McCaw, whose $20 million donation was a naming gift from him and his three brothers – Bruce, John and Keith.

There is no lease arrangement, per se, for the 25-year term of the agreement. The 10-page agreement sets forth the operating and maintenance costs for the hall and divides responsibility for paying those costs among the three partners – the Opera, the Ballet and the Seattle Center. If revenues exceed expectations, costs will be lowered for each party the subsequent year. The three parties have also agreed to pay their share of any unanticipated costs that may come up such as necessary renovations. Each will have a say in what gets done and how much is paid for it.

Under the agreement, the Opera and Ballet have first choice of dates for use of the hall, except that Seattle Center retains up to 14 days of free use for specific cultural events that take place during the summer.

One point of contention with the project continues to be a $15 million shortfall in funding for which the state and county were asked to contribute but haven’t as of yet, according to a spokesman for the City Council. In the meantime, the City has put up the money so that the opening of McCaw Hall would not be delayed.

McCaw Hall’s five-story structure features a 388-seat lecture hall, the 41,030-sf, 2,980-seat Susan Brotman Auditorium, various lobbies, a 4,000-sf rehearsal hall, meeting rooms and a 17,726-sf promenade.

The City is the owner/operator of the hall, which was designed by LMN Architects, and built by Baugh Construction, with planning, and project management by Shelly Yapp, Director of Redevelopment for Seattle Center, and Maria Barrientos, Project Development Manager, Barrientos LLC.

The Seattle Center is the cultural hub of the city, located on the site of the 1966 World’s Fair, and the site of Paul Allen’s Experience Music Project.

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