Curtain rises on new era at Regina's Darke Hall

·2 min read
After years of planning and construction, Regina's Darke Hall is ready for performers once again. (Ethan Williams / CBC News  - image credit)
After years of planning and construction, Regina's Darke Hall is ready for performers once again. (Ethan Williams / CBC News - image credit)

Twelve years of fundraising, planning and construction has yielded stunning results for Regina's Darke Hall.

The 93-year-old concert venue at the University of Regina's College Avenue campus was reopened this week after renovations to upgrade and update the facility.

Work began on its exterior in 2016 with repair of the roof, stone cladding and brick. Significant upgrades were then done on the building's interior.

Dean Tanner, project manager with Ledcor Construction, was in charge of the work being done. He's watched the revitalization take place over the last few years.

"It's always interesting when you're working on heritage project and seeing what you can preserve and what you can recreate," said Tanner.

Ethan Williams / CBC News
Ethan Williams / CBC News

A far cry from 93 years ago

The hall was built as a 578-seat auditorium in 1929. In its early days, it was the only professional concert venue in the city.

Over the years, it's played host to the Regina Symphony Orchestra, the Regina Music Club, U of R Conservatory performances and countless U of R drama productions.

WATCH| A look inside the newly renovated Darke Hall:

Wear and tear took its toll on the historic building over the years, leading to many upgrades being needed.

RSO Archives
RSO Archives

Most of the recent work brought things up to current accessibility standards. Larger washrooms were built, elevators and ramps were installed, and wheelchair seating was made available.

Ethan Williams / CBC News
Ethan Williams / CBC News

Detail work — such as stenciling of stained-glass windows, replacement of seats and new panelling on the ceiling — has made the hall more inviting and has improved acoustics.

Ethan Williams / CBC News
Ethan Williams / CBC News

"I don't think there's a bad seat in the house," said Tanner.

Other major work was done to the lower level. Once home to practice rooms and small corridors, this level has been expanded into an open-concept lounge with a bar. A bright atrium now connects the lower level to the Conexus head office next door.

Ethan Williams / CBC News
Ethan Williams / CBC News

Workers even encountered a surprise during the renovations. They uncovered a third doorway leading into the hall that had been hidden by bricks and concrete.

Ethan Williams / CBC News
Ethan Williams / CBC News

The Goldilocks of performance spaces

Dawn Bergstrom, Darke Hall's manager and curator, said the hall is an ideal size for performances.

"We don't have a venue of this size currently in Regina," said Bergstrom. "It fits kind of in the middle. It's not as big as some of our biggest venues and it's not as small as some of our more intimate ones."

Ethan Williams / CBC News
Ethan Williams / CBC News

Bergstrom says local, national and international acts are already booked for the venue, but she couldn't say who would be performing just yet.

Having performed in the space herself with choirs and dance studios over the years, she's excited to be able to come back to manage it.

"It was always a favourite place of mine growing up. To be able to come back and be part of its reopening and revitalization really means a lot to me."

Ethan Williams / CBC News
Ethan Williams / CBC News
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