The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

The official student newspaper of University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire since 1923.

The Spectator

Schofield Auditorium reopens

African rock band Jabali Afrika performs at UW-Eau Claire every year.

That includes this year, as they played for a full house in Schofield Auditorium Tuesday night. But this year, they played under new lights, on a new stage and for a completely renovated venue.

Schofield Auditorium, the university’s largest fixed-seating venue at 628 seats, reopened on Jan. 24 after a months-long series of

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Jason Anderson, the event production coordinator for University Centers, said the project has been three years in the making, but the finished product was worth the wait.

“We now have this premiere presentation space that is emblematic of the university’s goals, right there on the seal — excellence, innovation, sustainability,” he said.

Anderson said the university wanted to make the project as sustainable and cost-effective as possible.

There is a new seating configuration with more leg room and better handicap accessibility, and the fabric for the new seats is made entirely from recycled soda bottles. The new lighting system, which utilizes energy-efficient lighting, is made by a company based in Middleton.

Senior Kristi Basa, programming director for University Activities Commission, said everyone in that organization is excited about the improvements.

“It makes the space really versatile,” she said. “We’re really excited to be able to play around with the kind of groups we can have now.”

Now that renovations have been completed, student organizations will no longer have to pay room or equipment fees in order to use the space.

Before the upgrades, organizations would have had to pay an average of $1,275 per use of the venue because of inadequate production facilities, according to a university press release. Those costs could total more than $17,000 a year.

Basa said she sees free use of the space as one of the significant changes.

“Having it be free for students will really help other organizations,” she said, “especially community-based ones, where they’re trying to put their money back into the community.”

The upgrades were scheduled to be completed by the beginning of the fall 2011 semester. However, because of underestimation of the size of the project and regulations involving state funding, the construction and installation got delayed for several months.

The renovations, which cost a little more than $1 million, were funded through a partnership between the UW-Eau Claire Foundation, Student Senate and state and university facilities improvements funds.

Student Body President Phil Rynish said the Foundation had approached Senate a few times previously with a request to partner to pay for upgrades to Schofield Auditorium. Senate accepted the offer now because of the added support from state improvement funds.

“Part of it was that we had a hard commitment from the state,” he said, “and I think people just finally saw how bad that old auditorium looked and decided it was time for a renovation.”

Rynish added that he is looking forward to seeing the campus take advantage of the upgraded space.

“The new space is beautiful, and it has so many more technological capabilities,” Rynish said. “We’re going to try to get more presentations and performances in there, and it will really enhance those.”

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Schofield Auditorium reopens