Published on December 15th, 2017 | by UC&D Magazine


Classy Renovation

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The best concert I have ever attended was held at Utah State University.
True story.
Thanks to a recent $21 million addition and renovation project to the university’s Fine Arts Center, many other patrons may have the opportunity to make that same claim in the years ahead.
My USU concert experience revolved around seeing future Rock-and-Roll-Hall-ofFamers Van Halen tear down the Spectrum with a mind-blowing-for-its-time concert in 1979. The current project, however, focuses on building up a state-of-the-art, visually inspiring venue for orchestra and choral programs for years into the future.
The new project consisted of adding 15,000 SF of space on two sides of the Fine Arts Complex, while vastly renovating 107,000 SF of space in the existing Daines Concert Hall.
The new and improved Newel and Jean Daines Concert Hall (formerly Kent Concert Hall) is located in the Chase Fine Arts Center and touted as the ‘crown jewel’ of this recent renovation project. Extensive upgrades were made to acoustics, lighting, audio and seating, among other key improvements. (Right): Intricate stone flooring dots this area of the facility; a view of the main hall from the catwalk. (all photos by Alan Blakely, courtesy Gramoll Construction)
“Without a doubt, the biggest transformation of the entire project occurred in the Kent/Daines Concert Hall,” said Thomas Graham, the Project Architect assigned by Utah State University. “I am being told by the dean of the college that it went from the worst venue acoustically to one of the best in the West.”
The entire project took more than 2.5 years to complete with the design phase starting in earnest in summer 2015, and the new venue just celebrated its reopening with a 50th anniversary gala on Oct. 18 – marking a half century to the day when the original concert hall opened.
In between the key challenge, said John Sparano, Principal Architect for Salt Lake-based Sparano + Mooney Architecture, was figuring out how to transform the existing structure into an entirely different space. This included myriad tasks, such as constructing a choir loft above the existing stage, expanding the stage over existing mechanical tunnels, providing access to the stage left side of the choir loft while maintaining visibility of the existing organ, reducing the proscenium truss depth by 10 feet, and improving the overall accessibility of the space – especially for patrons with disabilities.
“Each of these tasks was challenging,” Sparano said, “but also essential to achieve the design of the new concert hall.”
When pointing to another big challenge of the project, Gary A. Hansen, project manager for Gramoll Construction of Salt Lake, said the company had to figure out how to get hundreds of yards of concrete and thousands of pounds of steel into a finished building on a busy university campus.
“Before this work could commence, we used a second-story window to gain access to the building, which was used to bring every yard of concrete, stick of wood and pound of steel into the space,” Hansen said, noting the window was about 10-feet by 15-feet wide. “From there, carts, wheelbarrows, buckets and dollies were used to navigate a series of ramps and scaffolding to reach the different levels of working areas.”
The basic premise of the project was to reimagine the hall’s space and focus on improving the overall audience experience. The seat count, for example, has been reduced by 425 to a new total of 1,743. The end goal, Sparano said, was increasing patron enjoyment by creating a more intimate venue.
“The original hall was quite wide, which resulted in a large number of seats that felt distant from the performance and were lacking in terms of acoustics,” Sparano said. “The renovation focused on reshaping the hall to create a much more intimate performance space. Walls adjacent to patrons were articulated to improve sound diffusion, which results in an acoustical envelopment of the patron that increases the overall intimate feel of the venue.”
And that’s not all.
In addition to the vastly improved acoustics, Hansen said, the hall received extensive improvements in “lighting, seating, climate control and visual appeal.
All-new theater seating, three new dressing rooms and a ‘star’ dressing room serve to elevate patrons’ and performers’ experience. A gallery was added to both sides of the house and behind the stage.”
Other improvements may be less noticeable — such as the new ductwork overhead in the venue.
“The HVAC systems in the hall were noisy and detracted from the performance,” Graham said of the former setup.
The increased size of the new ductwork serves to slow down airflow, in turn making the building comfortable and quiet.
“Several ductwork iterations were explored until we arrived at an advantageous solution,” Sparano said. “The larger ductwork dramatically reduces air noise in the venue, while the new catwalks and tension grid greatly increase production capabilities. The structure was left exposed in order to increase the acoustical volume and meet the target acoustical performance values set at the beginning of the design.”
Additions to the east and west sides of the complex added more than 15,000 SF. On the east side of the building, space was added to scene and costume shops for the Morgan Theatre, which is the primary venue for plays, small concerts, dance performances and film screenings. On the west, more than 7,600 SF was added to the Nora Eccles Harrison Museum of Art.
Taking all the renovations into account, attendees should be ready to experience the arts like never before at Utah State.
“The project that started as a vision of what could be by Dean Craig Jessop has turned into a jewel of northern Utah,” Hansen said. “All the details were carefully thought out as we moved from planning to construction. The warmth of the maple moldings, the comfortable theatrical seating, and the state-of-the-art sound system all come together to provide a venue that will please patrons for decades to come.”
“This renovation will accommodate and inspire countless patrons and students to further their support, interest and study of the arts in northern Utah and throughout the state,” Graham said.

USU Daines Concert Hall
Cost: $21 Million
Start/Completion: Aug 2015/June 2018
Owner: DFCM; Utah State University
Architect: Sparano + Mooney Architecture
General Contractor: Gramoll Construction
Civil: Cache Landmark
Electrical: Spectrum Engineers
Lighting: Spectrum Engineers
Mechanical: Van Boerum and Frank Associates
Structural: Calder Richards Consulting Engineers
Theatrical: Auerbach Pollock Friedlander
Acoustical: Newson Brown Acoustics
Landscape: Landmark Design Inc.
Subcontractors: A&B Mechanical; Concrete Design Concepts; CR Lighting; Cache Valley Electric; Darold Kellos Masonry; Ducworks Inc.; Edge Excavation; Granite Mill; Grant MacKay Demolition Co.; H. A. Fabrication; Mitchell Acoustics; Nicholl’s Brother Inc. Painting; Oasis Stage Werks; Preferred Fire Protection; Silverleaf Partners; Southam and Associates; S.P.R. Steel Erectors; Terry Bingham Construction

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