Southeast High School Auditorium Renovation
Springfield District #186
Location: Springfield, Illinois
Project Cost: $2.4 million
Superintendent: Jennifer Gill
Director of Facilities: Darrell Shaver

To say that the auditorium at Southeast High School was outdated is quite the understatement.

Southeast’s auditorium was constructed in 1966 and had undergone very few modifications since its completion. In recent years, the sound system and the lighting were so old, they were both rarely used.

Other issues plagued the auditorium: the seating was worn out, uncomfortable and unattractive. Stage curtains were in shreds and rarely used anymore. The slope of the floor, seating, access to the stage and many other components did not meet current accessibility standards.

District #186 turned to Graham & Hyde to plan and design a renovation project to update Southeast’s auditorium space, increase accessibility, and replace the sound and lighting systems with modern equipment.


One of the main issues in Southeast’s auditorium was that the shape of the seating area and the large size stage opening were not ideal for viewing from the front corner seats.

And just as important as viewing is listening. Acoustically, the sound from the stage was not being directed toward the audience due to the shape, and there were large plaster ceiling reflectors trapping the sound instead of directing it properly. And because the space’s brick walls were reflective, it caused the sound in the room to bounce around.

Partnering with Kirkegaard, an acoustical consultant, and Schuler Shook, a theatrical consultant, provided the expertise needed to ensure the proper improvements to the acoustics of the room and to help design state-of-the-art sound and lighting systems. Kirkegaard utilized G&H’s computer model of the space to study the acoustics and make recommendations.


The complex renovation addressed all of the auditorium’s issues…


The seating and stage opening was narrowed, and curved walls were carefully designed to help direct the sound from the stage towards the audience. Specially designed curved ceiling reflectors above the stage also help move sound in the right direction. Side curtains, called variable acoustic curtains, were added along the upper portion of the brick walls; these can be used to change the reverberation of the room as needed.

The stage was also extended approximately 4 feet towards the audience to create space in front of the front curtain so the school can hold smaller performances with the curtain closed. The new sound system is also fully integrated, updated and much improved.


To solve the accessibility issues, the entire concrete floor was removed and re-poured to provide a slope that meets current standards. All of the seating was replaced, and spaces for wheelchairs were added, as well as a platform lift for access to the stage. An accessible control area for sound and lighting with adjustable height workstations was built in the back of the seating area.


The new lighting is a user-friendly color-changing LED system. G&H added a projector in the rear of the auditorium and a drop-down projection screen above the stage to accommodate presentations from a computer.


The new 650 seats are much more comfortable. With a need of only 100 tablet arms, they are now spaced out around the auditorium for testing.

The Show Can Go On

While the school had continued offering band and choral concerts in the old auditorium, the drama and musical performances had dropped to nearly non-existent in recent years prior to the renovation.

Thanks to the beautiful new space, the school hopes to garner renewed interest in the drama and theater programs. The auditorium will also be used for programs by District #186 elementary schools, as well as outside groups in the community.

“Overall, the feedback has been very positive. Students and staff appreciate the new space, and it was used right away after completion for new events and performances,” Handy says.