By Frankie Kujawa
The Hippodrome Foundation recently welcomed members of the Baltimore media to a tour of the state-of-the-art, newly renovated M&T Bank Exchange. Completion of this $20M+ renovation project marks a new era for the France-Merrick Performing Arts Center, home to the beloved Hippodrome Theatre. Visitors to the Exchange will soon be able to experience the top-of-the-line amenities, technologies and upgrades in a space designed for the entire Baltimore community to enjoy.
“One of the things I am most proud of is the fact that this space is for the community,” began Andrew Springer, Executive Director of the M&T Bank Exchange. “I’m also proud of the fact that we were able to keep the historical elements in this space while making it usable for the present.”
Springer added that his hope is for the community to utilize this new space as much as they can. “From cultural events to celebrations, we want the community to bring as many of their ideas here as possible. This place was designed for everyone.”
The celebration behind the spectacular Exchange has been a long time coming for the beloved Charm City performing arts center, whose own grand reopening took place after renovations in 2004.
“This space sat empty for twenty years,” began Ron Legler, President of the Hippodrome Foundation. “When I first arrived here about ten years ago, I walked in and was amazed at this massive room with a beautiful flat floor and 60-foot ceiling. I knew it was a space that had to be utilized.”
Legler explained, “When they build new performing arts centers, they build places where Broadway can tour, and they build places where community can connect. So, we were missing that community connection.”
After a feasibility study was conducted, it was soon determined that a flexible event space was exactly what was needed. “We want to be able to have town halls that can happen here overnight on the turn of a dime,” Legler continued. “We want to have comedians, musicians, dance, and films. We wanted a space that could be as flexible as it could, and that was the idea behind what people will see here today.”
Some of the amenities and features of the Exchange include:
Legler added, “We just really want to be able to say ‘yes’ to those that want to put on a production here at the Exchange. We want to be an incubator for arts groups, so that they can worry about the production and not the rent. A big part for many of these productions is renting all the equipment. [At the Exchange] you’ll see that we have packed this place full of sound and lighting and all the new technology that we can. We want to be able to have all these assets available and utilize them with the community. Not only will audiences see a better performance, but we’ll be able to help those putting on these productions, as well. We have a marketing department, a ticketing department, and a group sales department. We want to help those putting on these productions so they can grow from here.”
A formal ribbon-cutting ceremony at the Exchange is planned for October 11th, 2023.
Click below to see a sneak peek of the M&T Bank Exchange from WBAL TV.