One of the UI's very best facilities just got even better. Audiences attending last week's performances by faculty pianist Ian Hobson and guest violist Nokuthula Ngwenyama were among the first to see and hear the results of the recently completed restoration of the Foellinger Great Hall at the Krannert Center for the Performing Arts. This summer, the Great Hall - which is highly regarded by performing artists worldwide for its excellent acoustics - received its first major facelift since the center's opening in 1969. Funded by UI sources as well as private gifts, the $900,000-plus project included reconstruction of the hall's 2,100 seats, installation of carpeting, floor refinishing, oiling of the butternut paneling to improve sound absorption and preserve acoustic properties, as well as sound and lighting improvements. Sound improvements included the addition of a high-quality, comprehensive audio system. Except for a cluster of new speakers mounted on the Great Hall ceiling, the amplification system is completely portable, allowing it to be used in other theaters or elsewhere in the building. New recording equipment was added as well, making the hall one of the few classical music facilities in the world with its own customized recording system in place. Also completed this summer was the installation of the Great Hall's Sennheiser infrared hearing assistance system. The system - which transmits infrared signals from the stage to headsets - is now available in all four of Krannert's indoor theaters. Exterior work included re-roofing the hall. Aside from improvements made inside and outside to the Great Hall, the rebuilding of the center's parking garages also began this summer. A major undertaking, the reconstruction was necessitated by deterioration of the concrete and steel infrastructure, caused by gradually over the years by weather and traffic. Work on the south garage will continue through the fall, with construction on the north garage scheduled to begin next summer. Restoration of the Great Hall represents the first phase of the center's "Renaissance project," which will include a number of building improvements over the next several years. Future projects include re-carpeting the Tryon Festival Theater and Colwell Playhouse and foyer; re-design of seating in the Studio Theater; the purchase of new draperies and a concert grand piano; and backstage repairs.