CLEMSON – As Clemson University students and faculty pause for spring break, their primary performance space is getting a spring cleaning.
The Brooks Theatre will again open its doors to the public on Monday, March 25, 2019.
The reopening was announced three weeks after the discovery of several bats in the building, which led to a cautionary closing of the theater.
The last three bats were removed from the Brooks Theatre March 13.
The return to normal operations comes in time for the performance of “Bollywood Boulevard” to go on as scheduled on March 25.
“We are thrilled that we will be able to bring this vibrant, song-and-dance spectacle to our audiences as planned,” said Thomas Hudgins, managing director of the Brooks Center for the Performing Arts.
During the Brooks Theatre closure, which began March 1, an appearance by the Nai-Ni Chen Dance Company was canceled and several other performances were moved to D.W. Daniel High School in Clemson and area churches.
“While it was disappointing that we had several bats find their way into the Brooks Center this month, we caught the situation early,” said Richard E. Goodstein, dean of the College of Architecture, Arts and Humanities. “I want to thank the Clemson Facilities staff for their extraordinary efforts in addressing this challenging situation swiftly and thoroughly.
“The Facilities team worked together with outside contractors and our Brooks Center staff to ensure that our unwanted visitors were removed promptly and humanely, and that mitigation and maintenance was begun immediately,” Dean Goodstein said.
In 2018, the Brooks Theatre closed from March 30 to April 27 after a colony of free-tailed bats was discovered roosting inside a wall and others were found near the stage.
This spring, a smaller number of the same species of bats returned to the Brooks Center, gaining access to the 87,000-square-foot building through a slim gap in an exterior wall.
Their entry point was discovered and blocked on March 1, within 48 hours of the first reported sighting. Compared to last spring, fewer bats entered the building and they spent fewer days there. The impact on the Brooks Theatre was lessened because they were removed before they could roost within the walls.
Ceilings and sealings
While it is not uncommon for bats to enter public buildings, especially in the spring, the staff of Clemson University Facilities has taken immediate action to keep bats from returning to the Brooks Center.
On March 1, an “excluder” was placed outside the narrow gap between masonry and metalwork where about 20 bats were observed entering the building in the pre-dawn hours. Excluder devices allow bats to leave a building on their own but not re-enter. Workers periodically check the attached netting or bags, and any bats recovered are returned to the wild.
The excluder was later removed and the entry point was sealed.
One lesson learned from 2018 was that in a large building, bats cannot always find their own way out. In the first days after bats were sighted this spring, maintenance workers teamed with pest-control and wildlife removal specialists to walk the catwalks and use a lift to locate and individually remove bats perched near the theater’s soaring ceiling.
On the exterior, maintenance workers rappelled down the walls or used a 135-foot-tall lift to inspect and seal any small gaps found in the masonry or where it met the metal flashing.
Free-tailed bats can enter a building through openings as narrow as 3/8 inch.
While bats are a beneficial part of natural ecosystems, the public is reminded not to interact with any they might observe, on campus or elsewhere, and not to touch them or harm them, as bats are protected by federal law. Any direct contact with a bat is grounds for medical attention to rule out the remote risk of contact with rabies.
Now, with the Brooks Theatre back in business, Clemson Facilities is working on long-term inspection, repair and other strategies to keep the bats away from the facility for good.
Brooks goes Bollywood
The touring stage show “Bollywood Boulevard” will be presented at the Brooks Theatre at 7:30 p.m. on March 25. The production blends live music, dance and storytelling to capture the spirit and energy of India’s classic films. Tickets are available at the Brooks Center website or its box office and cost $30 for the general public, $10 for students.
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