Macon City auditorium goes dark for months as renovation begins


Sheridan Construction and design firm Smallwood will work in two phases and complete the project in 2023

MACON, Ga. – For the first time since the late ’70s, the City Auditorium is being renovated.

Although the county originally planned to spend $10 million of the 2018 SPLOST proceeds, the final estimate is not yet known due to rising construction material costs and design changes to contain costs. The first design was more than 2.5 times the planned budget.

Sheridan Construction is overseeing the project in partnership with Atlanta design firm Smallwood.

The schedule for the auditorium is clear until early September to allow for construction in June, July and August.

“We have a busy schedule. We’re going to be working 24/7,” said Tom Rogers, Sheridan’s senior project manager.

They have halted auditorium bookings so that work can be carried out on the ground floor and in the basement concessions lobby during the first of two phases of construction, with the second half ending next year , hopefully in time to celebrate Macon’s bicentenary.

This week, crews covered the floor of the auditorium and began erecting a field of scaffolding that will contain a raised platform at the top of the proscenium so that workers can reshape the ceiling above the balcony.

“We’re eliminating the cap that’s there and just going back to what it was originally…black steel,” said Clay Murphey, SPLOST coordinator for Macon-Bibb County.

In 1977, the Sheridan team embarked on a 20-month, $2.2 million project to help balance the acoustic problems created by the “world’s largest copper dome”.

Plasterboard ribs and acoustic carpet panels were added along with tiles resembling spaceships near the stage.

However, this solution from around 45 years ago created another problem: excess humidity.

“The building is not able to breathe as it is,” Murphey said. “You can see all the mold.”

Most auditorium patrons visit during dimly lit events, but the damage is very evident when all the lights are on.

Over the past two years, more than $1 million has been spent waterproofing and renovating the basement and repairing the roof, which had 51 bullet holes in the famous copper dome.

In Phase 1 of the $6.9 million project, a structural steel network will be erected from the ceiling for a new walkway and lighting system.

Crews hermetically seal the historic mural above the stage to protect it from dust and damage.

There will be new paint, flooring, carpets and wallpapers with new curtains and seat covers expected next year.

“We touch pretty much everything the public sees,” Murphey said of the ongoing renovation. “The common space that people will see will be radically different.”

Downstairs, crews will demolish the stand and restrooms of existing concessions and create new ones during this first phase.

Smallwood originally designed a glass atrium and a major overhaul of the lobby, but the materials were way too expensive for the budget, and not everyone embraced the more modern concept of the century-old building.

During next year’s Phase 2, teams are expected to build octagon-shaped additions at each end of the First Street side to house first-floor bathrooms and a new ticketing area.

The extra year gives contractors time to find a match for the limestone used to build the auditorium to use on the new additions.

“I think we’re going to end up using something that looks like limestone,” Murphey said. “I would be surprised if we could extract limestone at a reasonable price.”

Rogers said he was looking forward to transforming the auditorium.

“It’s an interesting project because the auditorium is such a historic building and it means so much to so many people who have made memories there,” Rogers said.

Another “crown jewel”

Last fall, global venue development company Oak View Group, or OVG, acquired Spectra Venue Management, the manager of Macon’s planned auditorium, coliseum, convention center and new Macon-Bibb Amphitheater. Mall.

Peyton Jeter, marketing director of the local OVG office, said work on the auditorium coincides with the modernization of the Macon Coliseum.

A new video bulletin board was installed last year and the facility will have an upgraded fire alarm security system, which is estimated to cost nearly $500,000.

Crews are also installing a new $1.3 million ice floor system.

“It serves Mayhem, Disney on Ice and public skating very well,” Jeter said during a visit to the auditorium on Tuesday.

The auditorium renovation will also affect the oval-shaped green room that has hosted artists over the decades. Modern Stage improvements for loading into gear should make it easier to book acts for the auditorium.

During this three-month shutdown period, Jeter said she will have plenty of time to begin marketing the county’s new amphitheater once reservations arrive for performances slated to begin next summer.

OVG was the obvious choice to run the new venue, Urban Development Authority chief executive Alex Morrison said at last month’s meeting.

“When it came to needing support as we ultimately built, planned and operated a new entertainment venue, the Amphitheater, it made sense and a great opportunity to work with them again on this facility,” Morrison told the authority before the members agreed. the management contract.

OVG regional vice president Trent Merritt said the company understands the Macon market and the challenges of operating after the company was shut down by the global pandemic.

The Centreplex operation now has multiple sites to book shows and build relationships with artists.

“You can bring artists, up-and-coming artists, into smaller facilities and develop them into larger facilities,” Merritt said. “Now with the amphitheater it just puts another crown jewel in the armory here.”

For Jeter, nothing beats the charm of the old auditorium.

“I just think she’s so pretty,” she said.

Senior Civic Journalism Researcher Liz Fabian covers Macon-Bibb County government and can be reached at [email protected] or 478-301-2976.

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