Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Sangamon Auditorium, UIS gets new stage floor.

If the performance stage is considered the heart of an auditorium, Sangamon Auditorium is under-going a quadruple by-pass! For the first time since the hall opened in 1981 the stage floor is being replaced.

For many years now, the replacement of the stage floor has been a topic of discussion among Auditorium staff and University administration. But with the cost estimated around a quarter of a million dollars, difficult financial times for the state, and the need for other campus maintenance projects, the auditorium stage floor has not made the list of projects for several years in a row - until now! In late June, the first phase of removing the decking, or floor, began and within a few days, the auditorium took on a new look for the summer.

Why does a stage floor ever need to be replaced?

According to auditorium director, Bob Vaughn, stage floors generally have a life span of about 15 years. When patrons come to see a performance, the actual performance is all they generally see. What they miss is the load-in and load-out of gigantic events like the Broadway production Hairspray which spent a full day loading in three semi-tractor trailers worth of props, staging, rigging, lights, sound equipment, costumes, etc. It’s also common practice for larger shows with heavy, elaborate sets to secure them to the stage by lagging (screwing) into the wood floor. The holes that remain are filled once the show has gone, but some events leave up to 40-50 holes to fill. Also, accidents happen. A few years ago the fire curtain, a devise that is designed to protect audiences if there were ever a major fire on the stage during a performance, was accidently triggered. Thousands of gallons of water flooded the stage floor. The fact that the Auditorium floor made it almost 30 years is somewhat miraculous.

Just how big a project is it?

You can’t really appreciate the actual size of such a project unless you’ve had the chance to stand on the auditorium stage while it is completely empty. The total area of stage floor that is being replaced is 68’ from front to back and 114’ from side to side. That is almost 1/6th the size of a football field! As you can see in the pictures, the entire floor has been taken up. The decking (Southern Yellow Pine) will be placed on a layer of plywood that sits on what are called sleepers. The sleepers then sit on rubber pads. This design gives the floor a rigid feeling with a certain level of resilience that is especially important to dancers and other types of performances that incorporate acrobatics. As mentioned, the projected cost is around $250,000 - half of that coming from university appropriated maintenance funds and the other half generated though facilities fees which are part of the ticket prices at Sangamon Auditorium. The project will take about three months to complete start to finish and is scheduled to be done in late August – early September.

Image 1 - Plastic protecting seats and auditorium from dust.
Image 2 - Old Sangamon Auditorium floor.
Image 3 - Floor being removed in large sections
Image 4 - Bare concrete once majority of the floor was removed.
Image 5 - Section of floor. Notice the sleepers and rubber pads.
Image 6 - Bob Vaughn and auditorium staff leave our mark before new floor is installed.

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