UM’s Urey Lecture Hall Transformation Nears Completion

The new look of UM’s big Urey Lecture Hall.
Close up of Urey Hall seats
The Urey Hall renovation sports new maroon and grey fabric seats.

MISSOULA – Every University of Montana student at some point in their college career attends Orientation and classes in the Urey Lecture Hall. Perhaps it’s no surprise, then, that after several decades of use, the venerable underground hall was due for a makeover.

This summer, the south section of Urey underwent extensive renovations that included carpet to cover the existing concrete floor, new upholstered seats and improvements to the acoustics, energy-efficient lighting and a state-of-the-art audio-video system.

“For us, it was all about uplifting the student experience,” said Kim Nielson, a computer-aided design technician in UM’s Facilities Services–Planning and Construction Department who also serves as campus interior designer. “Now that it’s almost done, nobody recognizes the room.”

The $1.3 million redesign was funded from a University bond sale last year that generated $63 million ear-marked for investments in student-serving infrastructure and capital improvements. The Urey update addressed a number of problems, Nielson said, including noise and poor lighting. The original orange plastic seats, which were uncomfortable and certainly not up to UM brand, were replaced with chairs upholstered in maroon and gray fabric.

“The hall is used a lot for Orientation, so we wanted it to scream Griz,” Nielson said, noting that for extra comfort the number of chairs in the room was reduced from 440 to 400.

The focal point of the new AV system is an LED screen measuring 18 feet by 10 feet.

“It’s pretty awesome,” Nielson said. “I got a chance to try a video game on the screen, and I’m sure our esports team will love it.”

Urey Hall was named after UM alumni and instructor Harold C. Urey, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1934 for his discovery of deuterium, the heavy form of hydrogen. His work was key for the development of the atomic bomb. He also did extensive research in planetary sciences and the origins of Earth, working closely with NASA on lunar missions.

Nielson said upgrades to Urey Hall’s restrooms and corridor are currently in progress and will be done by start of classes. The corridor eventually will be furnished with lounge seating once physical distancing due to COVID-19 is no longer needed. The North Underground Lecture Hall, that shares a common vestibule with Urey Hall, is slated to be updated next summer.


Contact: Kevin Krebsbach, UM director of Facility Services, 406-243-2787,; Kim Nielson, computer-aided design technician, 406-243-2420,