SOU prepares for new theater building

The Oregon State Legislature and Joint Committee on Ways and Means recently approved two bills which will make it possible for SOU to renovate its theatre arts building as well as seismically retrofit Churchill Hall and make it more energy efficient.

Drafted by state Sen. Alan Bates, and state Rep. Peter Buckley the two bills, SB 5505 and SB 5506 will provide $5.5 million to expand the theatre building and 5.9 million for upgrades to Churchill.

Still in the preliminary planning stages — construction of the theatre arts addition is slated to begin in 2011 after SOU has matched state funds for the project which will take approximately 18 months to complete after it is underway.

The theater building was originally built to accommodate about 60 students, but theater arts is one of SOUs strongest areas of enrollment. The program has climbed to around 240-260 majors at any given time and it is not uncommon to see classes taking place in the hallways.

"Storage is one of our biggest problem areas," said Jim Klein, provost and vice president of SOU. "So one of our main design goals is to provide more room for storage of props and costumes."

In addition to more storage space, new classrooms are in the works including an area set aside specifically for computer-aided design where students will digitally draft plans for sets.

Other additions to the building include a costume and scene shop, movement studio, dance studio, and a much more visible entrance to the performance area which will give the entire building a much more noticeable presence. The current building, located off of Mountain St. is tucked slightly out of view of passing traffic.

"We're also planning on incorporating more musical theater productions, so hopefully the additional space and new rehearsal areas will make that possible," Klein said.

The construction of the theater building addition is estimated to create some 340 jobs, according to Mary Cullinan the president of SOU.

Another important goal of the project is to make the building as green as possible.

"It's easier to make a new building green than to modify an existing structure to fit within the guidelines, but we're going to make a serious effort to make the theater as green as possible," said Larry Blake, campus planning and sustainability officer.

A bit farther out — around winter 2012 — the seismic retrofitting and green makeover to Churchill Hall is planned after funds have been matched and state bonds have cleared.

SOU's main administrative building, which was built in the 1920s, will receive a new ventilation system as well as other improvements to make it as safe and friendly toward the environment as possible.

The objective of the Churchill retrofit — in addition to preparing it to survive an earthquake or other seismic event — is to make it much more energy efficient and safer for students while preserving its historic character according to Craig Morris, vice president of finance and administration.

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