Extensive Improvements Made to University Auditorium

The newly renovated University Auditorium will be dedicated on Friday, Nov. 1, the culminating event of a six-year project. 

To aid in celebrating the dedication of the facility, the world-renowned Cleveland Orchestra will perform at 8 p.m. under the direction of Steven Smith, and featuring violinist Ellen de Pasquale. They will perform works by Beethoven, Mozart and Berlioz. For tickets or information, call (330) 672-5436. (See the story on Kent Classic Arts Program.)

The dedication and concert coincide with a weekend full of activities, including the Founders Scholars Ball.

A view of the exterior of the newly
renovated Auditorium Building. 

Built in 1914 with designs by George Hammond, the building originally was intended for use as a library and executive offices. The entire building was brick, including brick pillars in the front. The present stone pillars and stone-faced front were added in 1931 when the front of the building was extended another 15 feet. The original building housed not only the library and offices, but also the gymnasium. When needed for basketball games, the tables and chairs were pushed aside to create a gym floor and reassembled back into study areas for the next day of classes. 

The original structure also was connected to Merrill and Kent halls, intended by Hammond as “a semi-circle of classical buildings.” The connections between the buildings have since been removed, allowing each structure to stand individually.

In 1923, Wills Gymnasium was built, which allowed the library room for expansion to include classrooms and more offices. In 1931, renovations of the library split it into two levels, allowing for more office space. Until 1976, the Auditorium Building was the Administration Building, housing executive offices.

An view of the interior
of the Auditorium.

As part of the university’s fundraising campaign, the Board of Trustees authorized the vice president for business and finance to award a construction contract for the second and final phase of renovations to the building. With a budget of $9.83 million, renovations are now complete. The firm of Irie, Kynyk, Goss Architects Inc. of Cleveland Heights led the renovations, with help in the designs from the university architects.

“The aim of the project was to respect the character of the existing building, enhance the exterior and renovate the exquisite atrium which will be used for special events,” said Beth Ruffin, university architect.

The renovation was completed in two phases. Phase one included renovations in the auditorium to make it a state-of-the-art performing facility. Phase two included the remainder of the renovations, including office space and the atrium, which will be used for the dedication ceremony. 

The newly renovated facility offers a technologically advanced, yet attractive and intimate setting for various musical, theatrical and orchestral performances. The facility includes 65,000 square feet of space, an enlarged stage, acoustic and lighting enhancements and 813 seats with drastically improved site lines. In addition, the new grand lobby boasts a glass-windowed front, allowing for unique views of the north campus. Renovations also include a new elevator, ticket office, general offices and restroom facilities.

— Jen Sopko

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