The Power Center for the Performing Arts opened during former president Richard Nixon’s administration, and since the performance space raised its curtains in 1971, it hasn’t had a major renovation since.

However, that’s about to change as a $1.5 million renovation will update the Power Center’s life safety and aesthetic features.

Barry LaRue, the senior performance hall operations manager, said the Power Center was the premier theatrical venue for the School of Music, Theatre & Dance.

“There was a general feeling that the theatre had slipped a bit in terms of its finishes,” LaRue said.

The renovations include an array of safety updates: additional handrails and lighting, back-of-house safety features and increased wheelchair-accessible options.

LaRue said there are currently handrails on only one side of the steep aisles in the Power Center. Lighting on the steps in the lobby’s spiral staircase, he added, is not as strong as it ought to be.

“It’s an invitation to have a bit of a fall,” he said. “The renovations will increase handrailing units so both sides will have something to grip (and) improve aisle lighting so that steps are better lit for patron safety.”

Building codes have transformed since the early ’70s, especially in consideration of handicapped individuals, and minor updates to theater seating have been executed in the past to ensure handicapped patrons are accommodated. In this round of renovations, LaRue said the amount of wheelchair-accessible seating will double.

Additionally, the bathrooms and theater seating will be renewed. The main lobby will be repainted. The theater seats have had the same upholstery since the Power Center’s inception over 40 years ago, LaRue said.

The architectural duo of Kevin Roche and John Dinkeloo, who designed the Power Center, have separately worked on projects such as the United Nations Plaza and the redesigning of New York’s Central Park. LaRue said maintaining the Power Center’s design prestige will be crucial during renovations.

“What we very much are conscious of is trying to maintain the original design of the building and not marring that late ’60s-early ’70s style,” he said.

The renovations were approved by the University Board of Regents on May 16. The renovations will be completed by the spring of 2015 and will be phased to minimize hindrances to the performance season, a document published by the board stated.

LaRue said the majority of the work will be done during the summer of 2014, when the Power Center has the lowest number of performances.

The SmithGroupJJR, a Detroit-based architecture firm, was hired to act as consultants a few years ago to evaluate the Power Center’s needs, LaRue said. The firm will also design the renovation project.

LSA senior Tia Faraon has been both a Power Center audience member and a performer — she’s performed multiple times as a member of the Filipino Student Association. She said the Power Center’s backstage features and lighting were professional.

“It’s a really big stage and a big venue,” Faraon said. “It’s exciting to perform there.”

She added that renovations ought to consider the bathrooms as well as the seating, as some seats provide a fuller view of the stage than others.

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