ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — State officials and thousands of Minnesota residents on Friday celebrated the official reopening of the state Capitol after a yearslong renovation shuttered its doors to the public and surrounded it in scaffolding, kicking off a party that will last through the weekend in St. Paul.
The refreshed Capitol grounds will host concerts, political panels and a fireworks show set to music by Minnesota artists. But throughout the weekend, the star is the restored and gleaming building that first opened in 1905.
The Capitol technically reopened in January, welcoming back the public and lawmakers alike after a grueling three-year construction limited access, but crews worked throughout the spring and summer to put the finishing touches in corridors, roof repairs and decorations. Gov. Mark Dayton thanked lawmakers for putting up the funding for $310 million restoration, calling it “the most unselfish vote of their careers.”
“Your willingness to fund this enormous project … without rancor, without partisanship for the 3 1/2 years it took deserves enormous credit,” Dayton said. “It stands on this hill and says again, to the people of the Minnesota, this is your government. It belongs to you.”
Hundreds of Minnesota residents attended the Friday morning ribbon-cutting as the weekend festivities began. By the afternoon, hundreds more were taking guided tours of architect Cass Gilbert’s reworked building, climbing up to the roof to see the golden quadriga statue dubbed The Progress of the State or just milling about the marble hallways snapping smartphone photos.
Weekend events include a political panel with former U.S. Vice President Walter Mondale and Minnesota Gov. Al Quie, a dance party set to music by the late Minnesota rockstar Prince and a Saturday night concert followed by fireworks. The state expects as many as 60,000 visitors and is offering both free parking nearby and free rides on light-rail trains.
Department of Administration spokesman Curt Yoakum said the grand opening finally signaled the end of construction so the state can give it back to its residents.
“We’re celebrating the building, but we’re really celebrating that it is being turned back to the people of Minnesota,” he said.
The restoration was years in the making as the condition Capitol’s roof and its exterior worsened. Crews finally got started in 2013, repairing and replacing crumbling marble from head to toe, replacing the roof and restoring dozens of pieces of priceless artwork throughout the building. After shifting senators’ offices to an adjacent office building, the project more than doubled the amount public gathering spaces.
Faith Anderson, the wife of a state representative, walked out of the building in awe. Friday’s grand opening was her first time inside the Capitol in several years and her first chance to see how far it’s come since it was shut down entirely in 2014.
“It’s beautiful. Oh my goodness, it’s just glorious,” Anderson said. “Everything is brighter.”
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