Upgrades ongoing at historic Lampton Auditorium

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Construction crews are nearing the end of their first monthonsite at Lampton Auditorium as they work toward an early summercompletion date that will see the historic performance hall madehandicap accessible.

Richard Caraway, the director of maintenance, transportation andschool safety for the Mississippi School of the Arts, said theongoing project will bring the building into compliance with theAmericans with Disabilities Act by installing an interiorwheelchair ramp, increasing the size of restrooms and installinghand rails.

The project is being paid for by a grant from the MississippiBureau of Buildings and Grounds, he said.

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“[When the project is completed] the facility will accepthandicapped people without any restrictions,” Caraway said.

Scarbrough Construction, LLC, of Roxie, is the primarycontractor for the job, and owner Jan Scarbrough said his crews areexperienced in bringing buildings into ADA compliance.

Among the alterations being made to the building are theinstallation of a rolling staircase at center stage and theaddition of a wheelchair ramp to the right of the stage.

The old restrooms in the facility have been removed, and newones are being erected just inside the auditorium, under thebalcony, complete with the necessary handrails. A new staircasewill also be constructed at the rear of the building.

The only challenge to the job, Scarbrough said, was keeping thenew construction compliant with standards set by the MississippiDepartment of Archives and History, which will not allow thehistoric auditorium to be altered from its original appearance. Asa result, the work will have to be topped off with original-lookingparts that must be either made or ordered, he said.

“You can’t just go out to the store and buy any of this stuff,”Scarbrough said. “We’ve got to match all that molding and make thenew doors. It’s a little tedious, takes more time.”

Scarbrough said his company hopes to complete the job by lateJune or early July, with the help of several Brookhaven-basedcompanies that have subcontracted electrical and plumbing parts ofthe project.

“We try to use all local people – keep everybody fed around theplace,” he said.

MSA Principal Jana Perry said Lampton Auditorium, which wasclosed last fall, will remain closed until the start of the 2009-10school year.

The lack of the often-used facility has sent MSA students outinto new venues. She said the school’s prom will be held at theBrookhaven Recreation Department, while graduation ceremonies willbe held at Copiah-Lincoln Community College.

The school’s drama majors, meanwhile, have had to share spacewith the dance department, while the vocal department is stilllooking for performance space, Perry said.

“That is our main space for events to take place on campus,” shesaid of Lampton. “[Construction has] limited our access to that,but our students are troopers and they become very creative withthe things they do in class and the productions we do.”

Besides the closure of Lampton Auditorium for a full schoolyear, the only other downside to the renovations is that the newbathrooms will take up audience space, Perry said. Still, theupgrades are preferable to letting the building continue to beinaccessible to the handicapped.

“We’ve had a few students with handicap needs,” she said. “Wehad a young lady last year that was in a car accident and couldn’tcome up to the stage to get her diploma.”

Once work on Lampton is complete, Perry said the building wouldcontinue to be used by MSA and rented out to the community forevents.