Academic Hall's auditorium closed due to structural problems

Tuesday, September 21, 2010
Academic Hall (file photo)

The auditorium of Southeast Missouri State University's Academic Hall has been ordered closed until further notice due to structural concerns.

St. Louis-based design firm the Lawrence Group "strongly recommended" temporarily shutting down the auditorium about two weeks ago, and the university complied, according to Southeast Missouri State News Bureau director Ann Hayes. She said the action was precautionary.

Meanwhile, Southeast has been forced to find other venues for organizations that had scheduled events at the auditorium.

On Aug. 18, the university hired the Lawrence Group to analyze the scope and estimated cost of renovations to Academic Hall.

"Based on the structural engineer's findings to date, they strongly recommended closing off access to and underneath the auditorium balcony," Hayes said in a news release.

The architectural firm's structural engineer has completed preliminary calculations on the balcony's basic framing and has determined that some structural connections are overstressed, Southeast's director of facilities management, Angela Meyer, said in the release.

"Structural engineers are assessing options that may be available to temporarily address the balcony's structural issues, but until that analysis is complete, the auditorium will be unavailable," vice president for finance and administration Kathy Mangels said in the release. She could not be reached for comment Monday by the Southeast Missourian.

Precisely what caused the structural issues or how long the problem has persisted is unclear. Lawrence Group officials did not return calls seeking comment Monday.

The building stress in the auditorium could serve as exhibit A in the argument for funding renovations at the century-old Academic Hall.

In June, the Southeast Missouri State University Board of Regents approved two resolutions laying the groundwork for a possible bond issue that could fund Academic Hall infrastructure upgrades along with renovations to Southeast's science complex and major deferred maintenance and repair projects.

One of the resolutions allowed the university to employ the services of an architectural/engineering firm to analyze the scope and estimated cost of those projects. The Lawrence Group began its review of infrastructure improvements needed in Academic Hall three weeks ago and will present recommendations, including cost estimates, at the board of regents' October meeting.

mkittle@semissourian.com

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