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Historic Schofield Auditorium undergoing renovation

RELEASED: June 16, 2011

Schofield Auditorium
Seats are being removed from Schofield Auditorium to prepare for renovation work. The updated auditorium will accommodate 611 new seats.
A fundraising opportunity to sponsor individual Schofield Auditorium chairs at $250 each is under way. More information can be found on the UW-Eau Claire Foundation website.

EAU CLAIRE —Historic Schofield Auditorium at the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire is being renovated this summer to better accommodate public events serving the campus, student organizations and the greater Eau Claire community. Renovation of the auditorium, which resides in Schofield Hall — the only National Historic Building on campus — began in late May and is scheduled to be completed by fall semester.

Schofield Auditorium is the largest fixed-seating venue on campus, with a seating capacity of 660. 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.

The project, which will cost approximately $785,000, is being funded through a partnership that includes the UW-Eau Claire Foundation, Student Senate, University Centers/Event Services, and state and university facilities improvement funds. Updates will 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. Major electrical improvements have been required to make the updates possible.

The space 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 current seating, ceiling, curtains, projection screen and theatrical lighting and fixtures date back to those eras.

Due to facility inadequacies, student groups have had to spend about $1,275 per event on production expenses, including sound and lighting equipment rental and related labor costs, which total more than $17,000 per year. The significant financial burden on students was revealed in 2009 when Foundation board president Casey Sylla asked students to prioritize the needs they saw for facilities improvements on campus.

Sylla has been central to the project moving forward and said he is 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. Schofield Auditorium has an iconic status on campus and has held a special place in the hearts of alumni. We are grateful that university 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," Sylla said.

"The Student Senate chose to support the Schofield renovation proposal because it saw the value in rejuvenating the space and how it benefits the university as a whole," said incoming Student Senate president Phil Rynish. "The benefits go far beyond aesthetics. When the project is finished, it will be a great performance venue and a much better facility for the many student organizations we have on campus. Schofield Hall is one of the more iconic buildings on campus and we were happy to have the chance to help improve it."

The renovated space will be available to all student groups with reservations overseen by University Centers. Student organizations will not be required to pay room or equipment fees to use the auditorium.

A fundraising opportunity to sponsor individual chairs at $250 each is under way. More information can be found on the Foundation website.

For more information about the Schofield Hall renovation, contact Mike Rindo, assistant chancellor for facilities, at 715-836-4742 or rindomj@uwec.edu.

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RD/MR/DW

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