Newport Beach City Council Approves Library Lecture Hall Naming Donation

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Rendering of new lecture hall

The Newport Beach Public Library Foundation has received a commitment from Bill Witte and Keiko Sakamoto for a generous contribution to name the Newport Beach Public Library Lecture Hall.

The Newport Beach City Council approved the Naming Rights Agreement at its Council meeting on Tuesday, August 23, 2022. The Naming Rights Agreement was on the Consent Calendar and was approved by the council 5-1, with Mayor Kevin Muldoon lodging a no vote. Councilmember Will O’Neill was absent.

The Naming Rights Agreement recognizes the Lecture Hall as “Witte Hall.” The name will appear on the front of the building at the library entrance as well as on the Avocado Avenue monument signage.

As part of the approval process, the City Council agreed to waive Council Policy B-9 (Naming of City Parks and Facilities) and B-17 (Parks, Facilities and Recreation Program Donations) for the naming of the exterior of the Library Lecture Hall.

According to the Staff Report, at the November 30, 2021 council meeting, the City Council took several actions associated with the proposed Library Lecture Hall, which would be built adjacent to the Central Library and serve as a state-of-the-art facility to accommodate City and NBPLF library, cultural, information, entertainment, civic and community focused events.

Of those actions, the City Council adopted a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the City and the NBPLF related to fundraising for the Library Lecture Hall Project. The NBPLF has been activity fundraising for the Library Lecture Hall Project. As a result of those efforts, the NBPLF has received a commitment in the amount of $4 million from the Witte family for the naming of the exterior of the Library Lecture Hall.

View from stage of the Lecture Hall

Witte Hall will be nearly 10,000 square feet, technologically advanced, with tiered seating for 299 guests. Located next to the Central Library, the Witte Hall construction will also include an expanded courtyard for pre- and post- events, and a reconfiguration of the library parking lot.

The Witte family are long-time supporters of the Library and the Foundation, and issued this statement that accompanied the naming gift:

“Our family is honored to continue our support of the Newport Beach Public Library Foundation and its mission to bring people together. We commend the City and the Foundation for their vision in taking on this ambitious endeavor. We are deeply committed to promoting community engagement and are thrilled to support such a beautiful building in a central place for the public to gather. The late Martin Witte, our patriarch and the namesake of the Witte Lectures, was an early and enthusiastic champion of the Newport Beach Public Library. A long-time supporter of public institutions and dialogue, he would be so proud.”

According to information from the Newport Beach Public Library Foundation, for nearly three decades the Witte family has provided support for the Foundation’s premier lecture program, The Witte Distinguished Speaker Series. Now in its 26th season, it has brought over 100 notable authors, thinkers, and provocateurs to the community. Those that have appeared on the series include historians Jon Meacham and Doris Kearns Goodwin, playwrights Edward Albee and Tony Kushner, journalists Tom Brokaw and Seymour Hersch, and many other prominent speakers.

The Newport Beach Library Lecture Hall, now Witte Hall, will be funded through both public and private sources. It is anticipated that the groundbreaking for the new hall will be in 2023 with the Grand Opening in 2024.

Naming opportunities are still available for the Library Lecture Hall. Major donors will have permanent recognition on the Donor Wall in the Witte Hall lobby and at grand opening events.

For more information contact Jerold D Kappel, Chief Executive Officer of the Newport Beach Public Library Foundation, at (949) 717-3890 or [email protected].

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