MSO announces new venue will be called the Bradley Symphony Center

February 13, 2020
After saying goodbye to one Bradley Center, it's time to say hello to another.

The Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra announced Thursday afternoon that the former Warner Grand Theater -- which the orchestra has been working to renovate into its new home for a couple years now -- will be named the Bradley Symphony Center, in honor of Harry and Peg Bradley, after receiving a $52 million naming rights gift.

The venue's 1,650-seat concert hall will be named Allen-Bradley Hall, after the company -- now called Rockwell Automation -- co-founded by the Bradley family in 1903, as a tribute to the company's employees.

The donation, by David and Julia Uihlein, Lynde Uihlein and The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation, will be used to fund the ongoing work at the 1930 theater at 212 W. Wisconsin Ave.

The Jane Bradley Pettit Foundation also made what the symphony calls, "a significant gift."

Pettit was the daughter of Harry and Peg Bradley, and David and Lynde Uihlein are grandchildren of the Bradleys.

"The MSO and its exceptional musicians represent the very best of the values Harry and Peg held so dear -- hard work, determination, and giving of one's gifts to others," said David Uihlein.

"My grandparents believed deeply in the importance of a robust civil society and the critical role cultural institutions like the MSO have in building vibrant communities. As generations pass from one to the next, we must continue to nurture these institutions as they connect us to the past and inspire us to imagine the future."

Peg Bradley and The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation have long been supporters of the MSO, said MSO President and Executive Director Mark Niehaus.

"The Bradley/Uihlein family and The Lynde and Harry Bradley Foundation have generously supported the MSO for decades," Niehaus said. "Over those many years, they have been both tireless advocates and critical partners, pushing our leaders and our board to think and act strategically to ensure the MSO's future and its lasting impact on Milwaukee.

"We are honored to name the MSO's new performance home after the Bradley family, whose tremendous impact on the MSO and Milwaukee is immeasurable."

The Bradley Symphony Center is slated to be ready in the fall of 2020 for the MSO's 2020-21 season opener.

"We'll be announcing the new season in the next couple weeks," said MSO spokesperson Erin Kogler, "(with) more concert date specifics."

In addition to the renovation and expansion of the theater to allow for a larger stage and for performance support areas, the project, designed by Kahler Slater Architects, also includes a new two-story glass pavilion, an new addition to the north and a renovation of the 12-story Art Deco office building in which the theater is located.

The MSO will house its administration and community education offices, catering facilities, a music library and multipurpose studios in the tower. The complex also includes community, education and collaboration spaces.

The mural Richard Haas painted in 1981 on the east side of the tower will remain and will be refreshed.

The project was announced in December 2016 and ground was broken in June 2018. One of the biggest and most nerve-wracking facets -- the more than 30-foot move of the intact east wall of the theater -- was accomplished in August.

"Conrad Schmitt and C.D. Smith are wrapping up restoration in the interior of the theater, and the scaffolding will be coming down soon," said Kogler. "The north addition -- backstage, restrooms, dressing rooms -- is getting framed in and drywall is going up.

"The south addition -- the glass building -- is in process. The first floor concrete is poured and they are starting on the second story. The east addition -- the stage area -- has concrete poured and they are putting up scaffolding to start on finishes."

Kogler said that Mother Nature has lent a hand in the progress.

"We've had really great weather, and (contractor) C.D. Smith's team has been on track, on time, and on budget," she said. "We're looking forward to selling season subscriptions for 2020-21, and I can't wait for everyone to see the new Symphony Center in person."

Here are some photos taken inside while the project was underway in October 2018.

More than $128 million has been raised so far toward the MSO's $139 million goal, which includes $89 million for the theater, plus money to an endowment, pension and bridge funds.
By Bobby TanziloPhotography: Kahler Slater Architects