Curtain opens on renovated Schofield AuditoriumJanuary 30, 2012
|The auditorium's new theater lighting system, energy-efficient house lights and numerous aesthetic improvements are visible in this shot from the balcony of the renovated campus venue. (UW-Eau Claire photo by Bill Hoepner)
A recently completed renovation project in the auditorium, located in the only National Historic Building on campus, totaled just over $1 million. The project was funded collaboratively through the UW-Eau Claire Foundation, Student Senate, University Centers/Event Services, and university and state facilities improvement funds.Schofield Auditorium is the largest fixed-seating venue on campus, with a seating capacity of 628. It is the setting for major presentations such as the Artists Series, The Forum, musical events, orientation welcomes and lectures. Schofield Auditorium hosts an average of 135 student-sponsored events per year, accounting for 98 percent of its use.
Updates include new seating, sound improvements, theater lighting, central room control, a video wall projection system, and other aesthetic and facility improvements, including improved handicap accessibility.
"We owe an immense thank you to our students and to the UW-Eau Claire Foundation for initiating and supporting this project to revitalize such a highly used venue on our campus," Chancellor Brian Levin-Stankevich said. "It's the first impression of UW-Eau Claire for our admitted students as they arrive for orientation, as well as a space where we welcome community members for many campus events. This renovation has transformed Schofield Auditorium into a facility we can be proud of for many years to come."
Phil Rynish, UW-Eau Claire student body president, said students are proud to be partners with the other entities that helped make the renovations possible.
"The auditorium has gone from something many students see once, at orientation, to a premier space on campus that students will be able to utilize for The Forum, student organization meetings, and much more," Rynish said. "Personally, I can't wait to see Jabali Afrika perform there this week."
Highlights of the Schofield Auditorium upgrades include:
- A new seating configuration that results in more leg room, the removal of the center aisle (and therefore the return of the "best seats in the house"), better sight lines for audience members, seven times the amount of designated handicapped seating required by building codes and the restoration of the first row of balcony seating.
- U.S.-manufactured chairs with seats measuring six inches wider than the previous seats and upholstered with blue and gold fabric made of recycled soda bottles.
- A theater lighting system (manufactured by Electronic Theatre Controls in Middleton) that includes low-weight, high-efficiency theatrical fixtures; high-output seven-color mixing LED fixtures; and an updated control, signal and power infrastructure.
- Dimmable fluorescent house lights that save power and service time.
- A fully digital U.S.-engineered and -assembled audio system that includes self-powered IC Live-Triple speakers (manufactured by Renkus-Heinz of Foothill Ranch, Calif.); UHF hearing assistance that works with loop hearing aids as well as over-ear devices; and a simple Crestron touch-screen control system for use by novice users, student groups, and university faculty and staff.
- A high-definition video system that includes the first video wall on campus, composed of 16 52-inch LED Samsung displays in a 4-by-4 configuration; Blu-ray, DVD, computer, laptop and iPad/iPod capabilities; and video conferencing capabilities.
- New first-floor entrance doors to be installed at a later date.
Rynish noted appreciation for the opportunity students had to ensure that the new facility included sustainable features.
|Chancellor Brian Levin-Stankevich made use of the new technology in Schofield Auditorium, including the first video wall on campus, during the spring semester opening meeting with UW-Eau Claire faculty and staff. (UW-Eau Claire photo by Bill Hoepner)|
Schofield Auditorium originally was designed for vaudeville-style presentations. It was renovated into a theater in the 1940s, but the project was halted when the state discontinued funding for the arts. It was completed in the 1960s as a lecture auditorium known as Old Main Auditorium. The prerenovation seating, ceiling, curtains, projection screen and theatrical lighting and fixtures dated back to those eras.
Due to facility inadequacies, student groups previously had to spend about $1,275 per event on production expenses, including sound and lighting equipment rental and related labor costs, which totaled more than $17,000 per year. The significant financial burden on students was revealed in 2009 when Casey Sylla, the UW-Eau Claire Foundation board president at the time, asked students to prioritize the needs they saw for facilities improvements on campus.
Sylla, when interviewed at the start of the project, said he was gratified that the Foundation, Student Senate and others could successfully partner on the project, particularly with other significant university building projects currently under way.
"When student leaders expressed a need to update the space, this seemed like the perfect project in which both entities could invest," Sylla said. "Schofield Auditorium has an iconic status on campus and has held a special place in the hearts of alumni. We are grateful that university, philanthropic and state of Wisconsin resources were available to ensure that the renovation would result in maximum benefits to the university and especially to the students."