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Minnesota State University, Mankato
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Refurbished ballroom to be celebrated Oct. 28-Nov. 2

Big Top Chautauqua, Jimmy Chin

New, high-tech ballroom being celebrated with big shows.

Minnesota State University, Mankato Media Relations Office News Release [10-21-11]

Minnesota State University, Mankato will unveil its newly renovated, high-tech Centennial Student Union Ballroom with a six-day celebration featuring a ribbon-cutting, Big Top Chautauqua entertainment, a National Geographic multimedia show and more.

Celebration of the $4.5-million ballroom project begins Friday, Oct. 28, and concludes Wednesday, Nov. 2. A public ribbon cutting will be Nov. 2.

The renovation includes a new lobby outside the ballroom featuring an engraved Kasota stone wall, an interactive photo wall with high-definition monitors, and a new ticket/cloak room.

Inside the ballroom, visitors will see 360-degree video on the ballroom’s walls, which double as projection screens for 17 digital projectors.

Visitors also will experience an array of colored LED lights keyed to projected audio and video. High-efficiency, high-intensity metal halide lights make the ballroom brighter than before, and dimmable halogen lamps provide low-light ambiance.

During the renovation workers completely restored the ballroom’s wood parquet floor and installed a new wood ceiling, as well as high-efficiency heating, ventilation and air conditioning systems. They also built a new roof over the ballroom section of the building.

Several celebration events will highlight the improvements – particularly the 360-degree video:

  • Warren Nelson’s Big Top Chautauqua will present a song-and-photo stroll through Minnesota history on Friday, Oct. 28, at 7:30 p.m.
  • The public ribbon-cutting is Wednesday, Nov. 2, at 11:30 a.m.
  • Mankato native and National Geographic photographer Jimmy Chin will present a multimedia show on Wednesday, Nov. 2, at 7:30 p.m.

Before the celebration – on Wednesday, Oct. 26 – Minnesota State Mankato students will attend a “Monster Mash” DJ dance for their first viewing and use of the ballroom.

“The ballroom will primarily remain a student space,” said Laurie Woodward, Centennial Student Union director. “The Centennial Student Union is the students’ building, and we hope this space will be a source of pride, camaraderie and enrichment for all of our students.”

“We are excited by the possibilities of the new and unique video wall design,” she added. “Big Top Chautauqua and Jimmy Chin will help us explore the potential of this wonderful addition.”

The Oct. 28 Big Top Chautauqua ballroom presentation, “Old Minnesota: Songs of the North Star,” will feature the 10-member Big Top Chautauqua folk orchestra from Bayfield, Wis.

Created for Minnesota’s sesquicentennial by Big Top Chautauqua founder and Fairmont, Minn., native Warren Nelson, the production blends original music, stories and large-screen vintage photos to illustrate the ambitions and accomplishments that shaped Minnesota.

Chin’s Nov. 2 multimedia show, “Both Sides of the Lens,” explores the photographer’s many National Geographics assignments, including a May 2011 cover story about rock-climbing in Yosemite National Park. Chin’s parents, Frank Chin and the late Yen-Yen Chin, were Minnesota State Mankato employees.

Advance tickets for the Big Top Chautauqua show are $6.50 for Minnesota State Mankato students, $12 for adults and $4.50 for children under 10. Prices at the door will be $8 for Minnesota State Mankato students, $16 for adults and $5 for children under 10.

General admission tickets for Chin’s presentation are $5 for adults, and children under 10 are admitted free with adult.

Online tickets for both shows are available at

No state-appropriated money was used for the ballroom renovation – it was funded from student fees. The project was financed partially with Centennial Student Union savings and partially with a $2.5-million revenue bond, to be repaid with future student fees.

Ebert Construction of Corcoran, Minn., was the project’s general contractor. The design was done by Kaas Wilson Architects of Minneapolis, with lighting consultants Shuler Shook of Minneapolis and technology consultants Elert and Associates of Stillwater, Minn.

More information about the ballroom renovation is at, and information about the celebration events is at

Minnesota State Mankato, a comprehensive university with 15,649 students, is part of the Minnesota State Colleges & Universities system, which comprises 32 state institutions.

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