When a stage that has housed some of the world’s most prominent figures for more than a century needed to be replaced—in a short time frame— Electrical Alliance contractor Aarow Electrical Solutions, LLC of Hughesville, MD, stepped in.
Gaston Hall on Georgetown University’s campus in Washington, D.C., is an ornate auditorium with more than 700 seats that was built in 1901 and has hosted national and international dignitaries, convocations, honorary degree ceremonies, lectures, musical performances, and theater. Most recently, former President Bill Clinton, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, former Prime Minister of Great Britain and Northern Ireland Tony Blair, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, and President Barack Obama have spoken there.
Renovations were planned when the stage floor, said to be 107 years old, was found to be structurally unsound late last year. It was a perfect time to also install stage lights, said Tony Reyes, Service Operations/Project Manager at Aarow.
Now, guests can walk on a new hardwood floor, with in-floor stage lighting and decorative floor boxes that house power and audio-visual wires. The contractor also integrated a WiFi system throughout the hall.
The project was done on a tight timetable to get the stage ready for two upcoming events: The university president’s speech to students at the start of the school year and the visit of Pope Francis to Washington, D.C. While the hall initially was considered for a stop for the Pope’s visit, it ultimately was opened as a space where students could come together and see the proceedings on wide screens.
Demolition had started before the project was awarded, yet when it was time for the renovation to begin, the schedule was critically tight—a two-month project completed in four weeks, said Reyes.
As a result, the team needed to make substitutions to the original design. For example, the original specs called for lights that the manufacturer could not produce in time. To meet the deadline, Reyes’ team researched alternative options, found other lights with the dimming capabilities the university wanted, and sought buy-in under a tight time frame, ensuring that everyone understood and agreed on the capabilities of the replacement lights. They used a similar process for the decorative floor boxes.
“I feel very fortunate to have a great working relationship with our local suppliers that went above and beyond to help me make things happen,” said Reyes. “The key was to provide a submission for approval that could be tweaked, if needed, but could be approved in as short a time as possible.”
Another project challenge was especially memorable. The electricity had to be installed from below the steel beams, in a very tight space, and the electricians crawled on their stomachs to hook up the wiring. “Thankfully, our foremen and field crew have the ‘whatever it takes’ mentality,” said Reyes.
And they were excited to build a sound, beautiful stage in such a storied place that will become part of history. “It’s another feather in the cap,” said Reyes.