Stone quarry number one reason for theatre delay

Rachel Christian

Construction at the new USI Teaching Theatre is taking longer than expected, but it should  be ready for the fall semester.

The new building is still on budget, said Gary Burgdorf, the construction administrator at USI. The project was able to cut spending in some areas, while distributing those funds to others. The original budget for the theatre was $17.2 million.

Burgdorf also confirmed that the project is behind schedule, which was brought up at the Board of Trustees meeting March 6.

The stone quarry that supplies the project has had problems delivering stone needed for the exterior. The sidewalks and the building’s exterior and interior finished floors are all on hold until the stone masons can finish their work.

He said it is unusual for a supplier to delay the building process like this.

“The contractors and I have discussed this on several occasions and this is the first time in our collective memories one company has hurt progress so completely,” Burgdorf said. “We have all seen problems, but there are usually ways to work around issues. In this case, none of us have been able to suggest the answer to this one.”

The architect is working on contingency plans in the event the quarry is unable to provide the supplies for the project, Burgdorf said.

Despite this set back, progress continues to be made on other parts of the theatre.

Assembly and installation of the elevators began this week and the auditorium seating is scheduled to begin April 1. The fire prevention, heating and air conditioning are already installed, while the drywall and painting are “going well.”

Wasserman, chair of the performing arts department, said the new theatre was slated to open in June, but if it is not completed by that time, it should be ready for the fall semester. But Wasserman said the theatre program doesn’t mind waiting.

“We all know that major buildings take time,” Wasserman said. “A few weeks one way or the other means nothing in the long term.”

The hard winter was another reason for delayed construction, he said.

Planning and design for the theatre began around five years ago and USI broke ground on the theatre in August 2012.

Besides hosting plays and other performances, the theatre will act as an instructional tool to prepare students for work in the entertainment industry. Much like teaching hospitals are designed to prepare medical students for real-life work, the teaching theatre will give students hands-on experience.

Wasserman wouldn’t say what the first production in the new facility will be, but he did say the comedy will be announced before the end of the semester.Burgdorf said there are other construction projects on the horizon.

Plans for a new conference center are “nearing completion” and may go out for bids soon. There are also plans to remodel more housing and complete the renovations in the science center this summer.

The theatre support building has also broken ground and is under way north of lot L, Burgdorf said.