Northrop Collapse


Thomas Olenchek, Contributor

During the University of Minnesota, winter break the students went home, but the winter weather stayed persistent in the area. Minneapolis was hit with a concoction of heavy snow, freezing rain, sleet, rain, and thunderstorms. During the hours between January 2nd and January 5th, a snowstorm produced an accumulation of over a foot. The 13-15 inches of snowfall in the cities has been quite heavy due to the high moisture content. Heavy snowfall can pose a threat to the structural integrity of buildings on and around the University of Minnesota. On January 11th at 7:30 p.m., university police and firefighters responded to citizen reports of a large noise originating from the Northrop Auditorium on campus. Due to the heavy snowfall over the course of the past week and the low temperatures, the roof of the auditorium on the eastern side collapsed. The roof had collapsed inward into the building’s attic and utility spaces. Luckily there were no events going on inside the building at the time, and therefore no injuries were reported. The first responders reported visible damage to the exterior of the building.

Due to the damages that the building has received, events that have been planned for the auditorium have been canceled. In addition to closing the auditorium, the Church Street parking garage and the Northrop parking garage have also been closed. The structural integrity of the building will be assessed and this assessment will determine whether the auditorium will require major repairs leading to the long-term closure of the building, or if it will require only minor repairs leading to the quick and speedy reopening of the building. Talk of tearing down the auditorium are out of the question due to the long history of the building and the recent renovations that the University has invested in.

Northrop mall and auditorium were built between 1928 and 1929. Northrop has hosted a slew of incredible artists, musicians, and politicians. Some of these incredible people and groups include Neil Young, the Grateful Dead, and The Dalai Lama. Northrop Auditorium contains too much history for it to be simply torn down. History aside, in order to keep Northrop from crumbling to the ground, the University has in the past done major renovations to keep the building safe and structurally dependable. The Auditorium underwent a three-year renovation starting in 2011 and ending in April 2014. The renovations totaled approximately $100 million and made many upgrades to the building. Structural and sound upgrades were made to the auditorium, while the number of seats was greatly decreased.

The damages sustained by the roof of the auditorium are hopefully not hints toward the need for more structural renovations. Structural renovations will cost money and this is money that the University of Minnesota System does not have allocated specifically for building improvement. The University tends to focus on building new facilities rather than renovating and maintaining their old ones. It is the hope of the university’s Alumni and current students that these historic buildings might remain for future generations. Tuition is set to increase by 3.5% in order to combat the 4.1% increase in expenses that the university has faced.

Students at the university are thankful that the damages to the Northrop auditorium are not greater. One student, Jack Radomski stated “As a student at this university, it was devastating to see the roof of the auditorium collapse under the weight of the snow. It serves as a reminder of the destructive force of nature and the importance of proper maintenance and safety measures.” All students are glad that the building still stands and nobody was injured. The weather in Minnesota can make life for students troubling and dangerous.