Wednesday, May 22, 2024
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Upgrades To Wattenberger In Governor’s Budget

The Governor’s budget with limited money this year for Tennessee Tech capital projects, but it does include money to renovate the auditorium inside the Bryan Fine Arts Building.

Wattenberger Hall has not seen a major overhaul since the building was constructed in 1981. Dean of the College Of Fine Arts Jennifer Shank said the facility hosts more than 250 School of Music events annually and dozens of other Tech programs.

“We are looking at having our seating area completely renovated, new sound, acoustic curtains put in,” Shank said. “They’re looking at putting in a new HVAC system, new lighting system, and overall sort of an overhaul of all the electronic equipment in the space. So it’ll be more comfortable, it’ll be safer. We’ll have more railings and all that good stuff, and we will be up to date and current with all the new technology so that our students and our guests get to experience the best and the cutting edge.”

Shanks said if the legislature approves the funding, the university would like to start work next winter. During the spring semester, Shanks said other facilities on campus could be used, or even facilities within the city, for performances.

“We have a rough timeline,” Shanks said. “We’d like to be back in the space for teaching in the fall of 25. So on our academic calendar, we’re hoping we’ll be back in the space for September, October of 25.”

Shank said the room also serves as a teaching space six days a week, meaning acoustics and updated technology are even more important to student learning.

“It is also what I like to consider a front door or a front porch to the university,” Shank said. “Lots of community members join us for sporting events and for arts events. And this is our front door to welcome lots of folks into the university setting. And for some people, it’s the only way they get to experience the institution. So I think it’s a really important building and a really enjoyable building on top of that.”

The state expected to appoint roughly $2.5 million toward the upgrades. The 500-seat facility named for the former chair of the Music Department, James A. Wattenbarger.

“It’s critical that our spaces, where we are making music, sharing arts, are top notch so that our guests and our student body and our community can enjoy the best,” Shank said.