The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation has announced a $1 million gift to Florida State University to restore and expand the lobby area of the venerable Ruby Diamond Auditorium to better serve the local community and the university.
In appreciation, the university will name the new lobby the "John S. and James L. Knight Lobby."
Mike Pate, the Tallahassee Program Director for the Knight Foundation, and Trabian Shorters, Vice President/Communities Program for the Knight Foundation, made the announcement in front of the auditorium, which is currently under construction. Visitors and the media were given a chance to peer inside to view the changes under way.
"This will be a new and important gathering place for FSU and Tallahasseeans for all kinds of events, and that connection is so important to us," Pate said. "The Knight Foundation’s mission is to help communities reach their highest potential, and we are pleased to be a part of providing an outstanding arts facility to this region."
"We are grateful to the Knight Foundation for allowing us to expand and enhance the area that welcomes visitors to enjoy the many concerts and other performances that FSU offers in Ruby Diamond Auditorium," said FSU President T.K. Wetherell. "This area will now provide a sense of arrival to Ruby Diamond that we do not currently have and will help draw residents into all that FSU has to offer through its world-renowned arts programs."
The lobby area is an integral part of the Ruby Diamond renovation and will greatly improve access in a way that brings the campus and the city together.
The renovation will incorporate some existing offices to create a generous, 11,000-square-foot lobby, new restrooms, new rooms for pre-function events, more accessible box office space, new concessions and places for people to sit and visit during intermissions. It will be much more open and less compartmentalized, with attractive wood paneling and better lighting. Altogether, the renovated lobby area will accommodate as many as 700 people outside the auditorium.
The new lobby and connected rooms will take up much of the first floor of Westcott and will enhance the $33 million renovation of Ruby Diamond Auditorium into a beautiful, acoustically superior, premier performance hall.
FSU College of Music Dean Don Gibson said the Knight Foundation has made it possible to greatly enhance the restoration of the auditorium.
"The Ruby Diamond restoration is going to be a transformative project for FSU," he said. "It will be a breathtaking new artistic and intellectual gateway to the university. The College of Music has never had a large performing venue with adequate acoustics. This renovation will provide such a space.
"The Knight Foundation is interested in providing high quality cultural experiences to this region, and this will allow us to have a major restoration of the lobby so that everyone can enjoy the new auditorium."
The original auditorium was built in 1911. It developed a settling crack and was closed in 1951. It was torn down, and a new auditorium was built in 1954. It was named Ruby Diamond Auditorium in 1971 to honor "Miss Ruby," a 1905 graduate of Florida State College and a longtime benefactor of the university.
About the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation
The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation promotes excellence in journalism worldwide and invests in the vitality of U.S. communities where the Knight brothers owned newspapers. Knight Foundation focuses on ideas and projects that create transformational change. To learn more, visit www.knightfoundation.org.