by Madison V. Fisler
July 19, 2013. After a 10-month long extensive renovation, the Schaefer Center for the Performing Arts on Appalachian State University’s campus celebrated its grand opening on July 18 with Idina Menzel with the Eastern Festival Orchestra and more than 1,635 attendees to the completely sold-out show.
The team of CJMW Architects, Seven Carter Price AIA, Rodgers Builders and the university’s Office of Design and Construction worked diligently to ensure that the facility would be open in time for An Appalachian Summer Festival.
The day after the grand opening concert the staff of the Schaefer Center offered a tour of the new facility.
When the renovations began last August the facility was in need of a major makeover. The $8 million project, which was generously funded privately by Bonnie and Jamie Schaefer. As it stood, Farthing Auditorium, which was constructed in the 1970s, had limited accessibility with no elevator or wheelchair lifts. The slope of the auditorium was in need of adjustment and the acoustics had room for improvement.
The renovations and refurbishing of the building allowed for certain issues to be addressed pertaining to safety, accessibility and the performance experience. Major enhancements to the facility allow for better shows, higher quality of experience for audiences attending events and and a safer experience for everyone involved.
The floor of the auditorium itself was repoured to allow for the adjustment of the slope for seating. This major fix ensures that the seating area has a much better view of the stage with the improved sightlines. The original chairs that existed in Farthing Auditorium were again utilized in the new facility. The chairs were rebolted to the newly sloped floors and will continue to be utilized, continuing the history and culture of the building.
“This auditorium has a great way of feeling cozy, despite having 1,635 seats,” said Megan Stage, manager of marketing and public relations.
“There’s no bad seat in the house now!”
In addition, the seating area is now more accessible for wheelchairs with the addition of an elevator; the removal of many sets of stairs; and chair lifts have been added anywhere stairs still stand. Schaefer Center staff is trained in how to use these devices as well.
The acoustical system within the auditorium also enjoyed a revamp, with acoustical curtains and panels added to the walls around the show area and sound system upgrades. The orchestra pit has been upgraded to a mechanized system, which will further enhance the show experience.
“Everything we have now is state of the art,” Stage said.
“Now that we have these great sound systems and orchestra pit, we can have large scale musicals.”
In addition to the upgrades to the show area, a new wing to the building consists of a concession area, an elevator to the second level balcony, office space for crew and additional restrooms. Even the dressing rooms got a fresh coat of paint.
On the second floor balcony, the space is being utilized for the Catherine J. Smith Gallery, to showcase art from ASU’s art department.
With all of these renovations now completed and just minor finishing touches still being worked on, the Schaefer Center for the Performing Arts is now a venue that can handle even the most complex shows, concerts and musicals.
With the recent success of their grand opening concert, the facility staff is confident that it will be able to handle whatever comes. As one of the main venues for An Appalachian Summer Festival this year, it’s no wonder that the Schaefer Center for the Performing Arts has become what one patron has called “worthy, now, of the great artistic talent that we bring.”