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Museum’s rooftop embraces the sky

Sally Roberts
sroberts@nnbw.biz

A new rooftop look is under construction for the Nevada Museum of Art

Work is underway to make the original, under utilized, outdoor space into a more hospitable and elegant year-round venue.

More than a year ago, museum officials took a close look at underleveraged revenue opportunities, museum Executive Director David Walker said at a recent media event to announce the project.



“We have doubled our operating budget in the last five years,” Walker said. “As we continue to develop new programs, it costs more.”

The fourth-floor rooftop was high on the list of underachieving spaces.



When the museum was constructed in 2003, the rooftop was created as a unique venue with panoramic views of the city and Sierra. However, thanks to northern Nevada’s summer winds and inclement winter weather, it remains empty much of the year.

Architect Will Bruder, who designed the original building, was charged with developing concepts to solve the weather challenges of the rooftop while also creating a dramatic architectural addition to the museum and downtown Reno.

Renamed the Fred W. Smith Penthouse, the $5.5 million re-creation of the rooftop is expected to be completed in early 2016 and include an enlarged, windowed inside space plus protected outdoor area.

The 4,800-square-foot Nightingale Sky Room features retractable floor-to-ceiling glass walls that provide a sheltered interior space but can be opened up in good weather. Up to 250 people can be seated for formal dinners, or 397 for concerts, parties, lectures, conferences, workshops, children’s programs and other special events.

Noted Reno-area restaurateur Mark Estee is helping design a state-of-the-art banquet kitchen.

Outside the Sky Room will be the Stacie Mathewson Sky Plaza with nearly 5,000 square feet of patio space protected by glass parapets that block the Nevada winds but not the views.

Opening the Sky Room to encompass the Sky Plaza can increase dinner seating to 500 people.

Clark/Sullivan Construction was called in as the contractor for the project. The Sparks-based construction company has been the general contractor for every major capital development at the museum since its inception in 2003.

“They know us, know our business,” Walker said.

Clark/Sullivan also did the work on the recently remodeled museum’s E.L. Cord Museum School, which Walker pointed to as an example of boosting the revenue stream for the museum with an existing program. The school, previously hidden inside the museum, presents a variety of art classes for all ages.

“Tuition increased 35 percent over the last five months, tied directly to being more visible. If people don’t know where you are, people don’t come,” Walker said.

By increasing the usefulness of the rooftop venue, the museum expects to substantially increase its revenue flow from special events, including weddings.

“We do 10 weddings per year now (at the museum),” Walker said. “We’ll be doing about 30 after the Sky Room is completed.”

The Sky Room is named and designed with homage to the historic Mapes Hotel’s elegant top floor Sky Room. The Mapes in downtown Reno was imploded in 2000.

“People have fond memories attached to the Sky Room,” Walker said. “We felt we could become the Sky Room for the 21st century.”

Currently, most special events in Reno are held in the city’s hotel/casinos, he said.

“That’s fine. We’re not going to take that away from them. But a lot of people, a lot of organizations would like a more inspirational location. We will have the most unique space in northern Nevada.”

Steven Nightingale, with the Nightingale Family Foundation Trust, which donated the seed money to get the project started, helped develop the rooftop project from conception.

“The theme present in every conversation I had with David (Walker) and Will (Bruder) was, ‘what is a museum?’ and ‘what does a museum do?’

“A museum collects beauty and safeguards it and offers it to the community.”

The museum, “is conceived as a place we can gather as a community and have the best chance to do our best work together,” Nightingale said.

Funding for the Sky Room project came from generous support from individuals and foundations, most of which have had a long relationship with the museum.

“For all intents and purposes, fundraising is over (for the rooftop project),” Walker said.


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