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Friday, February 28, 2003 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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More money flows into McCaw Hall

Seattle Times music critic

As the June 28 opening date for Marion Oliver McCaw Hall — the remodeled Seattle Opera House — draws closer, the Seattle Center Foundation has announced new gifts totaling $2.75 million to the private-funding portion of the capital campaign.

Contributions of $1 million each have been received from the Neukom family and an anonymous donor, in addition to new gifts of $250,000 each from the Forest Foundation, the Bagley Wright Fund, and William T. and Gail Weyerhaeuser. (The Neukoms' gift, which The Times reported last month, was officially announced yesterday.)

The Seattle Center Foundation has raised more than $63.5 million, or 88 percent of its private-funding goal of $72 million, over a three-year period in a challenging economy. About $8.5 million remains to be raised from private sources before the hall opens in June.

"When times are difficult, a community's character is tested," said Kent Stowell, artistic director of Pacific Northwest Ballet (one of the resident groups in McCaw Hall). "With gifts such as these, our community is proving it will meet the challenge. We look forward to the opening of McCaw Hall and PNB's inaugural season in our new home."

"This last week brought a great outpouring of new financial support that I certainly hope and believe will continue through to the opening of Marion Oliver McCaw Hall," said Speight Jenkins, Seattle Opera general director. "It will be a great tribute to Seattle to have what we believe will be a really great opera house supported so wonderfully by the community."

Several donors said they were motivated to contribute by their belief in the importance of McCaw Hall to the greater community.

"After reviewing the project carefully, we felt that this building truly was the cornerstone of the future," said Bill Neukom. "McCaw Hall ensures that Seattle will continue to grow as a center for world-class performing arts. And it also provides a worthy home for our superb ballet and opera companies."

The Bagley Wright Fund makes grants to cultural institutions for endowment or capital projects. "At first I hesitated to make a contribution, but when I finally got around to seeing the building, I realized its importance at once. I knew I absolutely had to support the project," said Bagley Wright, trustee.

The Weyerhaeuser gift recognized family member Annette Weyerhaeuser's "long-standing dedication to Seattle Opera."

The first and largest gift, $20 million, came from the McCaw family (brothers Bruce, Craig, John and Keith), to honor their mother, Marion Oliver McCaw.

In addition to the private money, $55 million was budgeted from public sources, including city, state, county and federal dollars — $44 million of which has materialized so far. Plans for the public money were made in 1999-2000, before the economic downturn tightened budgets at every level. It remains to be seen whether the remaining $11 million will be forthcoming, especially the portion expected from the state.

In the meantime, a "bridge loan" from the city of Seattle will ensure that the hall, owned and operated by the city, is completed.

The 2,900-seat hall, with a 400-seat lecture hall, will open June 28 with "The Curtain Rises," a black-tie gala. On June 29 there will be a daylong free celebration of performances and activities.

Tickets to June 28's event go on sale March 10. For information, check www.seattlecenter.org; to purchase go to www.ticketmaster.com or call 206-292-ARTS.

For information on the McCaw Hall campaign, call the Seattle Center Foundation: 206-615-1819.

Melinda Bargreen: mbargreen@seattletimes.com

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