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Preparations for North Hall auditorium renovations begin

March 28, 2014

One hundred years of history has echoed in the corridors of North Hall and as the new renovations for the auditorium are being prepared, more history is about to be made.

With expectations of starting the renovations on July 1, the plan has been put through the ringer for over a year due to budget costs and new state rules and regulations. Not only those changes have caused a burden but the administrative changes and state contracting and constructing projects which has slowed things down on all campuses and all state projects have also been an influential factor. The repairs were supposed to start this time last spring, but instead the Active Learning Classroom in the basement of Hagestad Hall was contracted out instead, being more within the budget.

The budget for the North Hall Auditorium is $1.4 million, in which UW-River Falls is contributing $346,000. The remainder of the costs is being picked up by the 2011- 2013 UW-System Classroom/ Instructional Technology Improvement Capital Budget.

Tim Thum, senior facilities engineer, is project manager of the renovations to North Hall. With the blue prints laid out on the table, Thum said that with the changes to the auditorium, the space will be up to date on current lighting and heating codes.

According to Thum all the seating is to be replaced and downsized from the current 582 seats to 356. The chairs will have fold outside desks attached to them, similar to the seats in the River Falls Theater in the University Center. With the to-be-expected painting and plaster repairs, all the lighting is to be replaced to be more efficient, the ventilation system redone, addition of air conditioning and the stage will be raised.

The biggest change being made aesthetically is on the north side where a courtyard used to reside outside the building. The windows that looked out to the courtyard are going to be “opened up” or renovated in a way to where it looks like it is open and looking outside, which is how it used to look when the building was first built in 1914.

The upper level of the auditorium is also supposed to be updated with new chairs and flooring, but only if the budget allows. None of the updates being made are environmentally friendly, but the space is getting a much needed remodel.

“It’s just a little face lift for an underutilized space,” Thum said.

Thum is not sure why the auditorium has been closed off or not used the past two years, but he knows that it wasn’t because the space wasn’t safe, it was just the university and the faculty’s choice to not use the space, or use it as much.

Last spring Facilities Management bid this project, and the project will be bid out again to be contracted out though the Division of Facilities Construction Management (DFCM). According to the website, DFCM is the building manager for all state-owned facilities and is responsible for all aspects of construction and maintenance of state Buildings, assisting the Utah State Building Board in developing its recommendations for capital development projects and allocating capital improvement funds, overseeing all non-higher education and non-judicial branch leases and controlling the allocation of state-owned space.

A construction bid process is very formal and is the process in which a general contractor (and, in some cases, the architect), is selected to work on a construction project. In some cases, the only thing that matters in the construction bid process is presenting the lowest price to the owner; in other cases, the contractor’s qualifications are as important, if not more important, than having the lowest dollar amount.

“We are expecting to start renovations July 1 and finish in time for 2015 spring semester, so we will still be working on the renovations through fall semester, but hopefully all the heavy construction will be done over the summer before students and faculty will be around,” Thum said.