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Kresge Auditorium Reopens Next Week

Greg Kuhnen -- The Tech
With the first stage of its renovations complete, Kresge Auditorium will reopen next week. The second phase of the project will include improved handicapped access, asbestos removal, and an upgraded lighting system.

By Douglas E. Heimburger
Associate News Editor

Kresge Auditorium will reopen next week following the first phase of a $6.3 million renovation to the building.

Over the past month, workers have been removing the asbestos ceiling from the lobby of the facility and asbestos insulation around pipes in the ground floor, said Philip J. Walsh, director of the CampusActivities Complex.

The contractor is currently installing a drop ceiling in the main lobby to cover the exposed pipes until this summer, when Kresge will close for two months while the remainder of the renovation process is completed, Walsh said.

When it reopens again just before Orientation, the main auditorium will feature new modern seating and a new theatrical lighting system. Downstairs, Little Kresge will be outfitted with an upgraded lighting system.

The entire facility will also be accessible to people with disabilities, fulfilling the requirements of the 1991 Americans withDisabilities Act, Walsh said. An elevator will connect the first and ground floors, and restroom and auditorium facilities will be modified to accommodate wheelchairs.

The life safety elements of the building - electrical and fire alarm systems - will also be completely replaced, Walsh said.

Program rooms to be updated

Space on the ground floor of the new Kresge will be reorganized to better accommodate the variety of theatre and music groups that use the auditorium and its practice spaces, Walsh said.

Because smaller mechanical facilities are being installed, more storage and practice room space may become available, Walsh said. Some of the equipment will be located in a basement facility beneath the walk to the Student Center that once housed ice-chilling equipment for an ice rink located at the present location of the barbeque pits.

The two practice rooms in the facility will be completely renovated and will have a new suspended floor and lighting systems, Walsh said.

In Kresge Auditorium, the stage extensions that formerly had to be raised and lowered by hand will now be adjusted mechanically, said Michael W. Foley, assistant director of operations for CAC. "One of the goals is to get more events there"by decreasing the setup time for shows, he said.

Groups relocate during changes

The closure of Kresge during Independent Activities Periodhas caused some inconveniences for theatre groups who use the facility for rehearsal and performances.

"We pushed it off as far as we could" to avoid inconveniencing groups during the fall term,Foley said. Contractors initially wanted to close the building in one phase for the entire renovation, but the building's level of use required it to be open for both academic terms.

No major performances have been cancelled as a result of the changes, although some groups have had to adjust their schedules to accommodate the closure.

Theatre rehearsals were relocated into the fourth floor of the Student Center and to theatre arts rooms across campus, Walsh said.

Work remains to be done

Although work done over the summer will improve Kresge's facilities significantly, the CAC has identified a wish listof ideas to be included in a second phase of renovation, including new audio-visual systems in the auditorium and new mechanical systems for the building as a whole. In addition, the glass curtain wall of the building could be replaced.

While the $3.6 million second phase has been planned, the funding and timing of the project have yet to be determined, Walsh said.

"What really got things going was the passage of the ADAin 1991,"Walsh said. Since the second phase does not involve critical issues or handicapped accessibility, it is of lesser priority than other work on campus.

After the current set of improvements are done, "we'll reassess where we are, review those remaining items and see if we can get them funded," Walsh said.

Work on the current phase of renovations began in 1995, when an accessibility study of the campus proposed a renovation to Kresge instead of stop-gap measures to improve accessibility. "Basically, it's the building that most frequently brings outside people to the Institute," Foley said. The report recommended full accessibility using an elevator instead of chair lifts along staircases.

The architectural firm of Kevin Roche, John Dinkelwood and Associates has been planning the renovation. Roche previously worked with Kresge's original designer, Ero Saarinen.