Success Story Auditorium Theater

SUCCESS STORIES: Auditorium Theatre

"While most other companies would have run for the hills, Metropolitan Fire Protection was more than up to the task of retrofitting fire protection systems in a building as old, massive, and architecturally important as the Auditorium Theatre. Working around the demands of a landmark that had to stay open and fully operational during the project, the MFP foremen, Sean and Mike, and their field engineer/designer, Jim, got the job done on budget with minimal disruption and within the timeframe required by the City. Now our building and patrons are safer than ever."

CJ Dillon
Chief Operating Officer
The Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University


Playing a Key Role

CLIENT: The Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University
LOCATION: Chicago, Illinois
TIMELINE: Started June 2016. Completed November 2016.


Known internationally for its perfect acoustics, innovative architecture, and stunning design, the iconic Auditorium Theatre was created by architects Adler and Sullivan in 1889, not long after the Chicago Fire. More than a century later, with only the main stage area protected with sprinklers, the remainder of the huge landmark structure had to be retrofitted with modern fire protection systems to meet a new Chicago City code deadline. The new systems had to integrate into the building’s famous design as seamlessly as possible. And, to add to the challenge, the work needed to be completed while the building remained open for business and its facilities were fully operational.


Recognizing the complexity of the project, Metropolitan Fire Protection began preliminary design work well over a year before the project started. Team leaders spent a good amount of time figuring out where the piping would function most effectively while also blending in with the building’s existing design features. We worked hard to ensure that if there was a way to conceal the piping—even if it meant climbing around in extremely tight areas that nobody else probably knew existed—we would. In instances where pipes would have to be exposed, paint colors would be matched or coordinated with the surrounding area to preserve the design.

MFP also functioned as General Contractor for the project, working closely with the scaffolding and painting sub-contractors to ensure there was as little disruption as possible and that the public did not see the work being done or notice it after it was completed. On each level of the building, we needed to closely coordinate the scaffolding so that the sprinkler pipe could be installed, tested, and then painted before moving on to the next area.


Sprinklers were installed in all areas except the main stage. This included a mix of exposed (open to the public eye) and concealed (above ceiling) piping in the main lobby, grand staircases, upper balcony seating areas, bathrooms, hallways, and offices. The complex project involved miles of piping and hundreds of sprinkler heads.

In addition, an alarm/laser beam detection system was installed in the main floor seating area—the orchestra, dress circle, and boxes—where sprinkler installation was not possible due to the expansive ceiling height and curvature.


For the Auditorium Theatre of Roosevelt University, the results earned rave reviews. “Retrofitting the fire protection systems of a 127 year-old structure that occupies half a city block is no small feat,” said CJ Dillon, COO. “Doing it in a cultural landmark without diminishing its beauty or disrupting business as usual is impressive. Finishing the project within the timeframe required by the City—and without incurring additional costs—is remarkable.” The building’s owner was so pleased with the results they even showed off photos of the new sprinkler installation on the building’s Facebook page during National Fire Prevention Week in October.

For the MFP team, taking such an enormous and challenging project from blank paper to a beautiful result was incredibly satisfying. It proved, once again, the company’s ability to tackle even the most complex projects that other competitors shy away from and not only succeed but also exceed the client’s expectations.

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