After three years of planning, the renovations for Richardson Hall are about to begin. Announced at Homecoming two years ago, the plans for Richardson were soon set aside as construction for the new stadium took center stage.

Richardson stands in mild disrepair, makes due with behind-the-times technology, and contains some of the most uncomfortable seating known to man. Those days are over. The new auditorium will boast state-of-the-art lighting, sound, and video equipment, along with high quality seating and more leg room. “It will be very comfortable,” said Roger Moon, director of the theatre program.

Another complaint has to do with acoustics. Currently, clarity of the spoken word is obscured by the level of reverberation off the walls. “Achieving the acoustics we will have uses the highest technology and a very sophisticated design team,” said Moon.

 As wonderful as the new auditorium will be, it comes at a high price at a time when money is tight. “We know these are tough times, but we’re not stopping. We still have big plans,” said Moon.

 The new facility is estimated to cost somewhere between $2.1 and $2.5 million. Current funds cover around half of that amount, and campaigning for the project is still in full swing.

Besides regular fundraising programs, the theatre seats themselves are being sold to contributors. Samples inside the Christy Administration Building show patrons exactly what they are buying and even allow them to try out the new seating. Each chair costs $1000, which includes the honor of having your name placed on it. “People aren’t excited about fixing bathrooms and adding new flooring,” said Moon. “Putting their names on it shows them where they’ll be able to sit and watch from.”

It’s been difficult getting people inspired to give, but Moon applauds all those who choose to. “It takes ambitious people who want to make an impact on students’ lives,” he said.

The other cost to consider is that of convenience. Students can expect disruption during class, parking issues, and problems getting around Christy.

“Obviously there’s going to be issues, but to what extent, I don’t think any of us know yet,” said Mike Farrell, vice president of Institutional Advancement. Institutional Advancement raises the funds for the renovations.

Moon said, “I suspect Richardson Hall will be sealed off and all the mess will be coming out of the back of the building.”

Trailers in back will cause parking problems similar to those experienced during the stadium construction. “It’ll be a mess to go through, but it’s worth it,” said Moon.

The renovation will include a new lobby, a box office, concessions, and bathrooms.

Another part of the project is less known, but just as important, if not more so.

A new maintenance building is being built east of, leaving the old one, east of White P.E., empty. The old building will be revamped to accommodate an entire theatre tech center.

A two-story addition will be attached to the existing facility, housing a variety of shops for sets, props, welding, costumes, and painting. Bathrooms, a lounge, and storage spaces are also included in the design.

The exterior of the building will also be updated. “It will be attractive so that it belongs on campus,” said Moon.

The off-site tech center takes the place of a previously proposed addition to Christy. “It’s a brilliant idea the administration had,” said Moon.

Previously, all the sets have been built on stage, making Richardson inaccessible for months at a time. The new tech center means Richardson Hall will be available for more events. In the past, the school would put together a schedule of events that included touring bands and speakers that were open to both the school and community. The idea of resuming this cultural art series is already being discussed. Other events and activities are just waiting to be lined up. “It’s going to be a great facility for the performing folks as well as the audience,” said Farrell.

Some of those performing folks will be leaving Southwestern before getting to use the new facility. “I’m so jealous that you guys get a new place, but I’m so proud that you will get to use a new facility,” said Marilyn Craft, elementary education senior.

Renovations are scheduled to begin in January and are expected to be completed before school resumes in the fall of 2011.

Erin Morris is a freshman majoring in communication. You may e-mail her at erin.morris@sckans.edu.