Construction under way on McKinney

Casha Cheema

If you haven’t already figured it out by the sound of pounding cement, caution signs, and construction workers, the McKinney Theatre is in the process of a major transformation. The dean of fine arts, Rocky Cifone, shared the details of this extensive project.

“Our goal is to exceed the standards when it comes to comfort, convenience, and safety,” Cifone said.

The building was built in the mid 1970’s with cement “faux cobblestone” walkways. This was a particular problem for wheelchair access.

“The ADA (American Disabilities Act) standards have been our biggest issue. If [the building] were done today it would be completely different,” Cifone said.

A new handicap drop-off and wheelchair ramp are part of the project, along with brand new bathroom facilities, a new drainage and sewage system, concession stand and electrical wiring. Bathroom facilities were a major problem in the building. There were a total of six stalls for all the classrooms, and the theatre.

“Our patrons will be very happy to know that we are increasing the number of restroom stalls from 6 to 21,” said Nina Welch, the Fine Arts public information officer.

“Whenever we had an issue with plumbing during a performance, we had to shuttle people up to the library bathrooms,” Cifone said.

Due to the shortage of restrooms, performance intermissions were extended to 20 minutes versus the standard 15 minutes. “People talk about the million dollar bathrooms, but there was so many other problems under the surface people just didn’t see,” Cifone said. The building also suffered from insufficient drainage.

“Whenever it rained on campus, there was no where for the water to go, so we would have to line up sandbags everywhere,” Cifone said. “It looked like WW2 Normandy Beach.” A new pipe system is being put in so water can drain properly.

The new concession stand is planned to be built where the current restrooms reside. It won’t be a full kitchen, but will include a freezer and microwave. Cifone said the renovation is on schedule to be completed by March 2009.

“Everyone has been really adaptive to this,” said Cifone. “When Patrons see progress, they know good things are happening.”

“Even though the appearance of the Fine Arts complex will be different, I feel change is good and I’m looking forward to the amenities our students and patrons will receive with the renovation including repaved and safer walkways,” Welch said.

There are already new plans stirring up about how to fill the newly renovated space. Cifone said they are “focusing on sustainability” and planning to have greenery that is suitable for California weather.

“We are planning to create attractive seating areas in the newly located courtyard with the help of our wonderfully talented Art Department,” said Welch.

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