Dallas Symphony Takes Over Aging Meyerson Center

Under the agreement, the Dallas Symphony will take oversight of the building in a 99-year lease

A fixture in the downtown Dallas arts community is under new management.

A unanimous Dallas City Council vote Wednesday handed oversight of the 30-year-old Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center from the city to the Dallas Symphony Association.

Community leaders, students and teachers supporting the Symphony wore white t-shirts to rally City Council support at the meeting.

"Help us make this building the icon it should be in Dallas and in the United States.," said Symphony CEO Kim Noltemy.

The Meyerson is in need of major repairs. The roof leaks so much that buckets littered the lobby Saturday night to catch all the water. Dinner guests before the evening performance had to change tables to avoid the leaks.

"It was raining inside and outside the building," Symphony Vice President Debi Pena said.

Under the agreement, the DSA will take over maintenance of the building in a 99-year lease with strict performance standards.

"We do expect great things. The reason we expect great things is we know you have the capacity to deliver them," City Council Member Philip Kingston said.

According city records, the "DSA will relieve the City of ongoing operation and maintenance costs and responsibilities, while allowing the DSA to more fully program cultural events in the facility."

The Symphony intends to book many of the 100 nights a year that the Meyerson has been idle.

"There’s just a plethora of stars," Pena said. "You put a great star with an amazing orchestra and it really makes for an outstanding performance."

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The Dallas Symphony Orchestra has been waiting for city leaders to fix mounting maintenance issues at the Meyerson Center.

The DSO has been waiting for the city to make repairs, but it has been a slow process.

"The city has done a very suboptimal job of maintenance. We’d probably loose the contract," Mayor Mike Rawlings said.

Pena said the Symphony will be free from much of the red tape that slowed city operation of the building.

The city will provide bond money already earmarked for roof repairs. It will pay $11 million to help with operating expenses for the first six years, but then the Symphony must raise all the necessary funds after that.

"Our goal is to really bring the Meyerson up to the level that the Dallas Symphony is trying to achieve and that’s excellence," Pena said.

Right now, The Morton H. Meyerson Symphony Center falls under the care of the City of Dallas, but a new proposal could see the building under new management. The Dallas Symphony Orchestra would like to take over operations for the Meyerson and bring some major repairs.

The DSO in 2018 raised its own funding to give the Meyerson a face-lift and power washing.

The price of repairs does not compare to the value of the building and what the Meyerson means to the arts community and families in North Texas.

"This building is iconic, and it truly is one of the best symphony halls in the world," Pena said. "Being from Dallas, it makes me proud that we have a building like this, that Dallas can call her own. When want to preserve the Meyerson so families from generations to come, can experience the beauty in the music and the building."

City leaders are estimating the new agreement will save the city about $60 million.

ONLINE: Memorandum on lease of the Meyerson Symphony Center

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