- Associated Press - Sunday, April 13, 2014

SHREVEPORT, La. (AP) - Shreveport’s grand old lady has received a $5.3 million face-lift befitting its age and stature.

The Municipal Auditorium’s makeover includes air conditioning, a new Grand Arena entrance and other work to meet American with Disabilities Act requirements, handicap-accessible seating and a good cleaning to make the historic venue sparkle and shine. Some non-working historic parts, such as steam radiators and a stage light board, remain so viewers can see what was there before.

“I’m proud as a peacock of this project,” architect Mike McSwain said as he walked halls once home of the Louisiana Hayride and graced by the likes of Elvis Presley.

Its success shows in the difficulty of seeing what’s been changed when you first walk in, McSwain said.

That melding of history and current requirements was challenging, said Trey Buteau, project manager for McInnis Brothers Construction.

“For example, the main entrance ramp is entirely new construction, but ties into existing floor, walls, wood trim and hand rails,” he said.

Voters set aside $4.3 million in a 2011 bond issue to renovate the Municipal Auditorium, Mayor Cedric Glover noted. That figure later was revised to $5.3 million after the city applied for funding through the state historic rehabilitation tax credit program.

Where things had to be replaced, repaired or added, materials and construction always harkened back to the original. One example is the oak and parquet floor in the second-floor ballroom.

The Grand Promenade down Elvis Presley Avenue was restored with period street lighting and a landscaped promenade with benches, trees and brick pavers that connect to the Municipal Auditorium steps.

Behind the stage, workers left original stage signs and autographs, including one by Kix Brooks - “Where the party be!” - and by roadies in the top-level projection room.

Even the door locks respect the original architecture that helped land the Municipal Auditorium on the National Register of Historic Places.

Shelly Ragle, director of Shreveport Public Assembly & Recreation, praised McSwain and contractor McInnis Brothers Construction for working closely with the city “to meticulously preserve the historic features of the building while providing modern-day conveniences.”

“I am delighted that the modern architect treated the auditorium with respect to the original architect,” added Shreveport Councilman Jeff Everson, whose district includes Municipal Auditorium.

“We always went back to when the building was built,” said McSwain.

However, there was one serious and major reason that drove the makeover: to bring the 1928 facility up to American Disabilities Act requirements.

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