100 Year Old Theatre Modernized

Extensive Conduit

Academy Center of the Arts

The Academy of Music Theatre originally opened on February 1, 1905 in Lynchburg, Virginia, hosting everything from amateur shows to large-scale productions. In the spring on 1911, the theatre infamously caught fire and was rebuilt, opening again in December the following year. The theatre saw great success, accommodating many traveling plays due to Lynchburg’s railway system, but eventually saw a decline in interest leading them to close their doors for good in 1958. The theatre sat vacant, deteriorating for decades until 1993, when the city chose to preserve and renovate one of the few remaining theatres in the country built prior to the First World War.

The undertaking of such a restoration project was extensive, to say the least. Modern upgrades were implemented while preserving as much of the historical elements as possible to recreate the theatre as it was in 1912. Jamerson-Lewis Construction earned the bid as the general contractor and brought Southern Air along for the memorable ride. Our team provided the electrical infrastructure and pathways for each individual system, to include the theatrical lighting and sound, fire alarms and curtains, motorized banners, and pit fall to name a few.

“Being responsible for pathways was a major challenge in a building of this age,” says Leigha Moore Southern Air Assistant Project Manager. “It wasn’t designed for modern amenities and it was challenging to find ways to get the (electrical) infrastructure where the design team needed while keeping it historically correct.”

Southern Air installed the conduit for the Lutron lighting controls, which encompassed the new lobby and the exterior façade of the building. The electrical systems in the theatre are controlled by Barbizon Lighting. For all the equipment, both inside the theatre and in the new modern building additions, we provided the raceways to all systems requiring power. Each system called for their own motorized breaker panels located throughout the theatre, resulting in a significant amount of conduit and wiring. To give you an idea of how much, we installed 234,000 feet of wire, which is roughly 45 miles in length, 70,000 feet of conduit and 1,800 feet of LED lighting along with 1,200 light fixtures.

“One thing I learned was that a bunch of us treated this like a normal job and then once we got into it we realized the complexity of it,” says John Gallahan, Southern Air Project Manager. “I’m proud of the guys. They’ve worked overtime since June. I’ve done that myself years ago so I know it takes a toll mentally, physically, and emotionally. There were systems we had never put our hands on before, there were so many trades we had to work with, so much always going on in the workspace and we still completed it on time.”

Part of Southern Air’s success focused on the total team concept as our electricians utilized many other departments within our company. John Reynolds and John Gordon, Southern Air electrical estimators were very involved in the day-to-day conversations as they confirmed light fixture counts and lengths, especially important due to the amount of fixtures and fixture types the Academy required.

Our Prefabrication Shop helped in a variety of ways. Mike Mann and James Kelso, Southern Air Master Electricians, were frequent visitors at the Academy to assist with prefabrication. Their teams built racks and sub-frames to support electrical panels making installation just a bit easier for our field tradesmen.

Mark Creasey, Southern Air Sheet Metal Shop Manager and his team built the main service junction box, providing the wire raceways from the exterior conduit to the electrical panels.

Ian Danos, Southern Air Building Information Modeling Design Detailer was instrumental in drafting the panels installed underground. He also drew in two different 8-inch aluminum pipe soda lines for their concession area, which was added to our scope of work during the course of the build.

“We spent the last year and a half of our lives going uphill the whole time but look at the thousands of people who are going to through that place, see what we’ve done and enjoy it,” Gallahan says. “The stuff we did well, we did very well and at the end of the day, the customer was pleased with Southern Air’s work.”

Not only are those at the Academy pleased, but so will each and every visitor who catches a show at the gorgeously remodeled theatre, which officially re-opened earlier this month.

“People will be blown away by the appearance of this theater, particularly if they have been in here before the restoration,” says Dorie Smiley, Academy Center of the Arts Construction Liaison. “Southern Air did an extraordinary job. The electrical systems are absolutely critical in every way shape and form to operating everything in the building. They really went above and beyond when something needed to be tested or tweaked. They’ve just been remarkable folks to work with.”

Have you ever seen such a renovation? Check out the video below for more!

Academy Fine Arts Final from Southern Air on Vimeo.

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