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Restoring Cincinnati’s Historic Music Hall with New Flooring

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Flooring Contractor:

The holidays would feel a lot less joyful without music and dance, but there will be plenty of joy for arts and music lovers in Cincinnati this season. People are returning to an iconic venue in the city where rehearsals and prominent performances are taking place on hardwood maple from Action Floor Systems®.

Following a 16-month, $143-million renovation, the Cincinnati Music Hall reopened to the public in October 2017 after being closed for two years. The historic building was built in 1878 and serves as the home to the Cincinnati Symphony as well as the Queen City’s opera, ballet, and pops orchestra.

According to this is National Historic Landmark that was in danger of deteriorating beyond repair. It was the first major work done on the hall in 40 years, and Otto Budig, the Chairman of the Music Hall Revitalization Company, is singing the project’s praises.

“This renovation will affirm Music Hall as one of the world’s greatest performance venues, celebrate the hall’s remarkable history … and lay the foundation for a bright future.”

The central focus of any performing arts venue is the stage. Responsibility for revitalizing that part of the Cincinnati Music Hall fell on Tony Stalford and his team at The Final Floor.

Most of the work The Final Floor completes involves hardwood maple basketball courts. Stalford says gymnasiums typically make up 80 percent of his dealership’s jobs. Yet, maple flooring can be an elegant flooring solution in many situations, and The Final Floor’s incredible work proves that point.

The Power of Trust

The Music Hall renovation was an extremely high-profile project. It’s been hailed in the New York Times as a shining example of how this type of venue overhaul should work. When contractor Messer Construction needed a partner to provide flooring, The Final Floor came out on top in the bidding process.

Stalford says Messer Construction and The Final Floor have worked together on dozens of projects. That meant the contractor could trust Stalford and his crew to provide in-depth product knowledge and the resources to complete the work within a tight timeline.

“Time was very important to them,” he says. “They wanted to hire someone with the expertise to get it done correctly and the manpower to get it done quickly.”

The Music Hall needed to be ready for the public by a certain date to avoid cancellation of scheduled performances and ticket refunds. Time was such a precious commodity that contractors could have faced liquidated damages of $50,000 a day if project deadlines were missed.

Watch Behind the Scenes Video of the Project

Center Stage and in the Spotlight

Springer Auditorium stage construction

Stalford explains that the previous mainstage flooring in the hall’s Springer Auditorium was made of 1-½” fir, which is a soft wood. As a result, the stage took quite the beating over the years, and facility owners requested a sturdy, long-lasting solution.

“They wanted the most durable product they could get that would move as little as possible,” Stalford says. “Their main concern was moving the stage backdrops. The backdrops we saw were probably 35-feet tall. They were just huge. We recommended 33/32 x 2-¼-inch edge-grain hard maple from Action Floors. It’s a very durable product that doesn’t move much. So out with the fir, and in with the maple.”

Edge-grain hard maple consists of hand-selected, high-quality boards featuring annual rings from 30 degrees horizontal to 90 degrees vertical. This is not an easy product to produce, but The Final Floor knew the Action Floors mill in Mercer, Wisconsin could be counted on.

“There aren’t too many mills that would make this product,” says Stalford. “In order to come up with 14,000 feet of edge-grain maple, Action Floors had to run a lot more material. Plus, Action always has the best millage. When the maple comes in, the tongue and groove fit together, the end matching is good, and there’s very little overwood. So, it saves a lot of sanding time.”

stage flooring

For the most part, the stage’s existing subfloor system was used. However, Stalford says subflooring at the front of the stage needed to be rebuilt, which presented some challenges.

“The slab changed in elevation up to an inch within four feet,” he says. “It was an old slab, so we had to modify the subfloor system and level it as we went across.”

Installation issues weren’t the biggest challenge. Stalford says the hardest part of the project was working around all the other teams in the building, including plumbers, electricians, HVAC technicians, painters, and others.

“You’d only have part of the stage to work on at one time while trying to keep all the maple straight and tied back in,” he says.

In the end, all the work was finished on time and within budget. That included other flooring projects beyond the mainstage. The Final Floor also installed oak flooring in the seating area and a ballroom. Plus, they helped the architect identify a better choice of maple sports flooring for a main rehearsal room.

“At first, they specified the same flooring as the stage,” Stalford says. “But, after a conference call with the architect, we reduced the floor from a one-inch to a ¾-inch maple. That’s because the one-inch floor wouldn’t allow the floor to flex for the dancers.”

The system chosen for the rehearsal room floor was Action ProAir AR. This selection is ideal for dance because of its AirTech natural rubber pads, which provide suitable shock absorption for dancers. The Final Floor also added acoustical insulation between the sleepers in the rehearsal room floor system to provide improved sound quality.

Raising the Curtains

Exterior of Cincinnati Music Hall featuring High Victorian Gothic architecture.

Performances at Cincinnati Music Hall are underway. With just weeks remaining in 2017, there are multiple productions planned, including a Ja Rule and Ashanti concert, The Nutcracker presented by the Cincinnati Ballet, and a ”Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone” special performed live by the Cincinnati Pops Orchestra.

The New York Times reported that when Music Director, Louis Langrée, welcomed a cheering audience back to the hall on October 6, he said the updated hall would bring people “closer to the music.”

When we last spoke with Tony Stalford, he was preparing to attend a special grand opening event for all the contractors who worked to revitalize the venue. He reflected on a job well done and how far everything had come over the last 16 months.

“I remember when I was walking through the job site before the bidding process and it was all run-down and torn up,” he says. “Today it looks brand new, and it’s a really sharp facility.”

Projects like this are becoming common for The Final Floor. Stalford says the dealership is regularly landing more commercial jobs, including the Columbus Museum of Art and the National Veterans Museum in Columbus, which is set to open in 2018. See more Final Floor projects on their website.

Action Floors is honored to have our products used in the revitalization of a beautiful and celebrated building. If you’re interested in learning more about our hardwood maple stages and dance floors, give us a call at 800-746-3512 or contact us by email with your questions and requests.

Find out more about what to consider when specifying a dance floor here on our blog.

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