After bankruptcy, Sprague renovations back on track



Come the start of next semester, the familiar sight of chain-link fences and concrete barriers around Sprague Hall may be a distant memory.

The renovation of Sprague Hall, originally slated to have been finished at the end of 2002, should be finished for the start of the next academic year. Facilities Project Director Arch Currie said part of the cause of the delay was the bankruptcy of the original construction firm, New Jersey-based Durell Builders. A new firm, Turner Construction, has since taken over and the project is expected to be completed by the summer.

“It’s moving along pretty well,” Currie said. “I would estimate that it’s approximately 50 percent completed.”

Robert Blocker, Dean of the Music School, said he anticipates they will start moving into the new facility in late July or early August. He said a committee is planning the reopening festivities that will kick off with a gala on Sept. 4.

Blocker said the renovation is an opportunity to make the hall more functional and accessible for the community.

“I think it’s a wonderful addition to the campus,” he said. “It’s something we’ve really missed.”

Renovations include creating new classrooms, green rooms and dressing rooms for performers, and installing much-needed air conditioning, said Paul Hawkshaw, a professor of music history at the School of Music.

“Sometimes in the summer it’s unbearable,” he said. “Now we will be able to use it year-round.”

A major consideration during the renovation was ensuring that the changes maintain the integrity of the hall, Hawkshaw said. The construction will maintain the hall’s configuration and shape, and the seats will remain as they originally were but be refurbished, he said.

Blocker said the hall’s absence has been sorely felt when the school has to hold concerts elsewhere.

“Unless its a really large function, it’s in Sprague Hall,” he said. “We’ve been having to use places like Trinity Evangelical Lutheran Church, and Battell Chapel for concerts.”

Blocker said these venues do not have the same facilities for musical performance that Sprague Hall does.

But Hawkshaw said before the renovation, there were often problems with outside noise disturbing those inside the hall, especially during concerts.

“Every time a bus or an ambulance went by you could hear it,” he said. “We wanted to eliminate extraneous noise.”

Sound considerations and acoustics were an important aspect of the renovation, Blocker said.

To maintain the integrity of the acoustics in the building while improving its sound-proofing, Yale hired R. Lawrence Kirkegaard, the president of Kirkegaard Associates. Blocker said Kirkegaard is considered one of the best acousticians in the world.

After the renovation, the building will be sound-proof and will have the capabilities to do recordings. It will also be equipped to hold concerts featuring “new” music, including computer-generated sounds, Hawkshaw said.

“It’s one of the great concert halls on the east coast,” he said. “It will be really be quite beautiful when they’re done.”

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