Memorial Hall Opening Delayed

The gala reopening has been postponed, but renovation and additions to Memorial Hall are expected to be finished in June.

Workers on the $17.4 million project ran into underground utility lines and interior asbestos they hadn’t counted on, and ensuing delays made the anticipated early 2005 reopening impossible, according to Paul Kapp, the campus historic preservation architect.

Memorial, built in 1930 to replace the original 1885 hall, a wooden structure that was condemned, is the campus’s primary performance auditorium. But it had become known for audience discomfort – cramped seating, summer heat and too few restrooms. The backstage facilities were inadequate for the performers, too.

While remedying these problems, the renovation includes the amenities of a modern performing-arts hall. The stage has been widened by 18 feet and the stage house expanded dramatically, and reception and lobby space has been built onto the building’s sides. Memorial will have modern lighting and audio systems. The original seating of 1,600 will be reduced by 200, but there will be more leg room between the rows. The building will be air-conditioned and will have more restrooms.

Even with the widened stage, the auditorium will look much like the old one. The monuments to soldiers who died in the Civil War, high on the walls next to the stage, have been retained, as have the marble plaques in lobbies and hallways honoring key people in the University’s history.

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