Retrofit set to commence

Knox Center to update ADA regulation, seismic stability

By Benjamin Bassham, News Editor

Seismic and ADA retrofit and general upgrades to the John and Jean Knox Center for the Performing Arts will be done over the summer, Eric Chiu, construction manager for Critical Solutions, said.

Theater Staging Specialist Travis Hiner and Buildings and Grounds Manager Bruce King said the main task is making the Knox Center safer in an earthquake, but more will be done to modernize the building and meet legal requirements.

King said the seismic work will be “stuff you don’t see,” including support beams on the roof and in the walls.

He said, “They did similar work in the (Biology and Physical Sciences buildings), but you probably don’t notice it.”

Hiner said the overt work improves ADA accessibility and adds ADA seating. The bathrooms will be replaced, a new bathroom added in the lobby and the lighting ballasts, which are out of code and unsafe, will be replaced.

Hiner said an electric sign will be added to the building’s exterior, much like the one by the football field.

Hiner said the sound booth at the back of the theater, originally designed to show eight-millimeter film — not for all the theater’s music and sounds — used temporary risers to let people see out of the small opening for decades will be updated.

Chiu said the office, three raised platforms and storage space in the backstage will be torn down and replaced.

Hiner, who has worked at the Knox Center in that office since January, said the office is an odd, weathered little place that bears the marks of many years of use by eclectic personalities.

“It’ll be nice to have something new,” King said. “It’s history in the breaking.”

King said the work was supposed to be done a year ago, but re-planning for the addition of the sign, and the ADA requirements, delayed it until now.

Hiner said, “A lot of the issues they have are because it’s a theater. It’s tall and different from an average building.”

 Chiu said, “A small amount of lead and asbestos were found by the district’s testing consultant.”

King said, “(Asbestos) is in everything from before 1973. It was the approved and preferred construction method.”

The Environmental Protection Agency started restricting asbestos in 1973, and has slowly tightened regulation since then, but it is still not banned in the U.S.

King said the presence of asbestos and lead in floor tiles and on the roof is both unsurprising and not a cause for concern. Asbestos spray-insulation is dangerous just to be near, but most is safe so long as it is undisturbed. For asbestos to cause harm, particles of it have to be inhaled.

The work on the Knox Center will disturb it, but King said, “It’s part of construction (in) any project we touch. We have to take normal precautions and bring in a professional removal company.”

Workers had the same problem doing the retrofits for the Biology and PS buildings, and when working on the Knox Center’s stage rigging, he said.

King said the Knox Center has just finished its project to replace the theater’s rigging and counterweight system for moving lights, curtains and scenery.

Hiner said the system was as old as the Knox Center itself, opened in 1980. King said the 35-year-old system had outlived its life expectancy and was unsafe and not remotely up-to-code.

Hiner said the ropes were weak from age, and some battens couldn’t be used safely. He said the new system is similar to the old, but with improved utility and three electric battens. King said the change-out was done over the winter break, without disrupting classes.

He said about 10 contractors walked through on March 1 to see what needs to be done, and make bids for the work. Chiu said Cal Pacific Construction Inc. is the apparent low bidder, and the district is reviewing its bid documentation.

He said if the documents are in order the Governing Board will give them a notice of award today.

It is expected the contractor will get the notice to proceed on, or around, May 9, with construction starting in late May or early June, and finishing in September.