Board approves Assembly Hall architect, Natural History Building funds and Easter as interim vice chancellor

The Board of Trustees approved a $2.2 million dollar contract with the architectural firm AECOM to draft a construction plan for renovations of the Assembly Hall. According to the proposal, this project is expected to improve the experience for attendees and participants at events.

The proposal calls for major overhaul of the arena, which includes lowering the event floor, adding guest suites, adding a new bowl for seating and restoring current restroom facilities. Another major renovation on the table is the installation of air conditioning and repair building lighting.

Kevin Ullestad, director of the Assembly Hall, previously reported to The Daily Illini that the lack of air conditioning makes the venue almost unusable in the summer months because of the heat.

“Air conditioning would make this a full 12-month operation,” Ullestad said. He was also a member of the board’s selection committee. “Even in early fall, it’s too hot in here and in mid-May right around graduation it’s very volatile, so air conditioning is huge on that list.”

In addition, the board approved a funding proposal to the Natural History Building, which has partially been abandoned due to its condition. The $70 million proposed renovation will use funds from the operating budget from the Urbana campus, student fees and donations.

At the board’s September meeting, then-interim chancellor and vice president Robert Easter informed the board that $50 million have been secured, as a result of cost-saving measures.

“The reason we are able to do that is the very pivotal decisions the deans have made on this campus over the past two years,” he said. “It’s a hardcore instructional facility on this campus.”

The trustees also unanimously approved Easter as the interim vice chancellor for research. Easter briefly retired on Oct. 15 after serving in the interim chancellor role for more than two years.