The Science, Mathematics and Engineering Center (SMEC) project at Elizabethtown College is responsible for the renovations to the Masters Center for Science, Mathematics and Engineering. “When you walk in the building, everything is nice and new,” Joseph Metro, Director of Facilities Management, said. “But when you walk into Gibble, it looks like the old building, because that’s what it is.”
The original plans for the SMEC project included renovations to Gibble Auditorium, but the College’s funds dried up before the plans could be implemented. Now, thanks to a $175,000 grant from the George I. Alden Trust, Gibble is at last going to get its new shine.
The plans are laid out in detail. Currently, classes and events are held in Gibble, requiring it to act as a lecture hall and an auditorium. Updates will make these conflicting goals easier to meet.
The acoustics in the auditorium will be highly improved, Metro said, by installing acoustic clouds on the ceiling. These clouds are essentially panels that can be adjusted to absorb and control sound. In addition, the sides of the auditorium will be slanted slightly to reduce echoing across the room.
“It will look the same to you,” Metro said, “but the change will make a difference in the experience of every person who enters the hall.”
Films are frequently shown in Gibble Auditorium, and for good reason. “I love seeing films there because the screen is so big that everyone can see properly,” first-year Renee Roth said. A new powered screen, able to be raised and lowered, will be added, and the stage that currently occupies the front of the auditorium will be removed for better physical and visual access.
Students entering or departing the darkened auditorium will no longer have to worry about disrupting films and lectures with glaring rays of light from the hallway. Light locks – small rooms allowing for a double set of doors – are in the works. Faculty members can breathe a sigh of relief, as interruptions to their classes and events will be minimized.
At first glance, the changes in seating might seem like a downgrade – the number of seats will be reduced from 320 to about 300. However, the new seats will be bigger and more comfortable, and will pass the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Code-required railings will also be included in the seating renovations, giving the auditorium a crisp, clean and professional appearance.
The renovations to Gibble are planned in phases, and part one will take place next summer. Part two is expected to take off and be completed during the summer of 2013.
This is not the first grant the College has received from the Alden Trust. In 2007, the trust funded the George I. Alden Cell Biology Laboratory – a $150,000 project. In addition, the trust made it possible for the communications department to purchase new equipment that it badly needed. Lesley Finney, the executive director of foundation development, said the College “purchased 23 workstations, a projector for use with a whiteboard and video editing equipment. [An] earlier grant allowed the purchase of television cameras and switching equipment used to enable distance learning from our campus and to provide rebroadcast of performances from [the] new Chapel/Performance Center.”
The original renovations to the SMEC were also funded by the trust. As popular as those changes have proved to be, the upgrades to Gibble provide reason for a lot of excitement among the College’s student body.
“I think the renovations that they made to the Masters Center are incredible,” sophomore Chris Rio said. “All of the classrooms are high-tech and up to date. The [SMEC] building is always kept spotless, and it’s a great testament to all the time and money they spent spiffying the place up. It’s a great atmosphere for learning, and I wish all of the academic buildings were as nice as the Masters Center.”