Actors, performers and dancers have three times as much space in which to sharpen their craft now that the new 35,000 square foot Theater and Dance complex has opened.

The project, which took two and a half years to complete, is located along the Pardall corridor, next to Hatlen Theater and across from the Student Resource Building. The previous occupant of the space – Snidecor hall – was demolished to make way for the structure.

“Everybody on the faculty has been very excited about the move into the new building,” Dramatic Art and Dance Dept. chair Simon Williams said. “It is a tremendous moment for the department and we are really looking forward to taking advantage of it.”

Construction was originally scheduled for completion by June 2006, but was delayed by the discovery of carcinogenic asbestos in the walls of Snidecor Hall. Crews were forced to wrap the building in plastic and monitor the quality of its air, drastically raising the cost of the project. The complex finally opened Feb. 15.

The $15.2 million project received the lion’s share of its funding from the state. In addition, an anonymous donor contributed $1.2 million toward construction in 2006.

According to Dramatic Art and Dance Dept. principal public events manager Stuart McDaniel, the old building was seismically precarious and would have collapsed if there had been a strong earthquake. It also had no elevators, and needed additional space.

The complex features a 150-seat lecture hall; a 60-seat general assignment classroom; two new dance studios; new voice, movement and acting studios; a group of rooms for the design department; and new faculty and administrative offices.

Fourth-year theater major Natalie Kauk said the limited space prior to the complex’s opening forced students to schedule rehearsals at odd hours.

“It was very much needed,” Kauk said of the complex. “People would rehearse until two or three in the morning because there just wasn’t enough space.”

The complex now has four dance studios, four theater rehearsal rooms and three performance spaces, which promise to result in higher quality performing arts on campus, Williams said.

“I think we will have better acting and better dancing as a result of the studios,” he said.

With the location so near to Isla Vista and the Student Resource Building, Williams said he hopes the complex will give his department a more conspicuous profile on campus, and attract more students to the program.

Aside from providing space to drama and dance students, Williams said the complex offers plenty of open areas in its courtyard for students to meet, spend time and become introduced to the work of the department.

The new building could also be a stepping-stone to future departmental improvements. Williams hopes that in the next two to three years additional faculty will be hired, as the physical space to accommodate them now exists.

According to McDaniel and Williams, the adjacent Hatlen Theater may also be renovated in the future.