Rice Auditorium will get a facelift this year


Sarah Baker

Baker University’s Merton S. Rice Memorial Auditorium will soon be getting a facelift when renovations start sometime this year. Image by Sarah Baker.

Story by Angela Bober and Sarah Baker

Now that Baker University has received a $300,000 donation from the Sunderland Foundation specifically for the renovation of Rice Auditorium, specific planning is underway for the project.

The three-phase renovation project will include improvements and upgrades to the seating, stage, storage areas, lobby, technical equipment and ADA compliance.

“The first phase is focusing on the seats and stage itself,” Vice President for Strategic Planning and Academic Resources Andy Jett said. “The other two phases will resolve the lobby and some of the exterior of the building.”

In January, architects met to draw up preliminary plans for the renovation.

“The architect has been out and given us their preliminary drawings of the space so the initial estimation of what these pieces are going to cost, like chairs, an update to the stage and curtains,” Jett said. “We’ve run that through some of the faculty here and our next step is to put that information out to an actual contractor to get a bid.”

Because of conflicts between contractors’ schedules and events already planned to be held in Rice Auditorium, the renovations may not be complete for a while.

No official start date has been set for the renovation; however, many Baker students and faculty are already excited about the prospect of a remodeled auditorium.

“The auditorium hasn’t been the best for us, so hopefully the updates make the auditorium seats more comfortable so that more people will come watch,” freshman Rebecca Wendt said. “The stage is also uneven but when it’s fixed we will be able to move the piano around to different positions.”

The renovation of Rice Auditorium will not only help current Baker students, it will also affect prospective ones.

“When we renovate something, it helps attract students,” Professor of Music Trilla Lyerla said. “It helps in our recruitment efforts.”