Centennial Series: Measure H revitalizes tired Burbank Auditorium

The+auditorium+is+the+first+of+several+buildings+to+be+overhauled+using+money+from+Measure+H%2C+a+state+bond+grant+Sonoma+County+residents+approved+to+revitalize+the.+The+%24410+million+bond%2C+first+voted+on+in+2014%2C+serves+to+%22upgrade+facilities%2C+address+overcrowding+and+prepare+students+to+attend+four-year+universities%2C%22+according+to+a+statement+released+by+SRJC+President+Dr.+Frank+Chong.
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Centennial Series: Measure H revitalizes tired Burbank Auditorium

The auditorium is the first of several buildings to be overhauled using money from Measure H, a state bond grant Sonoma County residents approved to revitalize the. The $410 million bond, first voted on in 2014, serves to

The auditorium is the first of several buildings to be overhauled using money from Measure H, a state bond grant Sonoma County residents approved to revitalize the. The $410 million bond, first voted on in 2014, serves to "upgrade facilities, address overcrowding and prepare students to attend four-year universities," according to a statement released by SRJC President Dr. Frank Chong.

Jett Williams

The auditorium is the first of several buildings to be overhauled using money from Measure H, a state bond grant Sonoma County residents approved to revitalize the. The $410 million bond, first voted on in 2014, serves to "upgrade facilities, address overcrowding and prepare students to attend four-year universities," according to a statement released by SRJC President Dr. Frank Chong.

Jett Williams

Jett Williams

The auditorium is the first of several buildings to be overhauled using money from Measure H, a state bond grant Sonoma County residents approved to revitalize the. The $410 million bond, first voted on in 2014, serves to "upgrade facilities, address overcrowding and prepare students to attend four-year universities," according to a statement released by SRJC President Dr. Frank Chong.

Jett Williams, A&E Editor

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Good things are coming soon to Santa Rosa Junior College theater arts students. The first project funded by the Measure H spending bill, passed in 2014 to revitalize SRJC infrastructure, is well underway.  Brand new facilities and equipment will replace the obsolete interior of Burbank Auditorium when it reopens in December 2018.

When it opened in 1918, SRJC didn’t have anything resembling a large auditorium for the drama department. Plays and musicals were shoehorned into the library, or performed next door at the Santa Rosa High School auditorium. The construction of Burbank Auditorium in 1939 gave theater arts students their very own stage.

The auditorium is the first of several buildings to be overhauled using money from Measure H, a state bond grant Sonoma County residents approved to revitalize the. The $410 million bond, first voted on in 2014, serves to “upgrade facilities, address overcrowding and prepare students to attend four-year universities,” according to a statement released by SRJC President Dr. Frank Chong.

John Shillington, a SRJC theater arts instructor, said that he is excited to return to Burbank and see the renovations. “The temporary offices and classrooms are all working but there is a sense that this is a time of being displaced,” Shillington said.

Improvements to Burbank Auditorium will include renovated prop and costume production rooms, two new classrooms and a new multifunction studio theater room with a capacity of 200. The biggest change comes to the original 400-seat main auditorium, which is receiving raised stadium seating to provide better lines of sight and full American Disabilities Act (ADA) compliance.

Shillington said that the old theater contained pockets of space where performers struggled to project their voices, due to the way sound traveled in the room. “It was one of the most challenging theaters young actors would ever have to play in terms of projection,” Shillington said.

Nathan Haimson, 19, spent their first semester learning at Burbank before this year’s move to the Lark temporary buildings. They described the facilities at Burbank as “dated.”

“They had a lot of room, but seemed like they needed updating.” Haimson also said it was a struggle moving from Burbank to Lark, due to the facilities at Lark being “limited.”

Theater arts students will be confined to the Lark temporary classrooms until Burbank Auditorium reopens in December.

The Measure H bond covers many aspects of SRJC beyond the auditorium. In addition to the $20 million budgeted for the Burbank renovations, $87 million is set aside for Tauzer Gym, Analy Hall, Garcia Hall, Pioneer Hall, Emeritus Hall and the Petaluma Student Food Services building.

In addition to the major remodels on these buildings, other structures like Maggini and Bussman halls are receiving smaller maintenance and repair projects budgeted under $50,000.

The funding also covers modifications to make all buildings compliant with ADA standards, placement of new permanent parking spaces, a new STEM building, improvements for Shone Farm and Southwest Center equipment, new faculty and staff computers and a new on-campus WiFi infrastructure.

Burbank Auditorium was originally built using funds from the Public Works Administration, a government agency formed after President Roosevelt’s New Deal in 1933. It hosted drama classes and productions, as well as photography classes and concerts staged by the music department. When built, it was the most expensive building on the campus by a wide margin, costing $171,000 at the time.

Luther Burbank, whose experiments in botany and plant cross-breeding gave him local-hero status, gave the auditorium its name. Burbank also contributed heavily to SRJC’s growth, donating his property to the school for use as a training ground for its botany students.

Theatre arts Department Chair Leslie McCauley said in a recent press release, “A modern theater will provide a foundation for our students to enter the workforce, but more importantly, we hope to provide our students with the confidence to pursue their dreams – theater has a way of doing that.”

The groundbreaking ceremony for the new Burbank Auditorium is scheduled for 2 p.m. on Jan. 9, 2019.

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