Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Auditorium remodel is cost-conscious solution


The Blaine County School District's Community Campus auditorium, built in 1978, is the largest indoor performing arts venue in Blaine County. The primary use of the auditorium is for students who participate in choral, band, orchestra and drama programs that are recognized regionally and nationally. More than 5,000 people use the auditorium annually for everything from memorial services to world-class lectures and performances.

When Wood River High School was built 10 years ago, there was consideration of building a separate performing arts facility. Four years later, community priorities shifted to remodeling the existing auditorium rather than building a new one. The original figure of $882,500 used during the Plant Facility Levy process was based on a basic "Band-Aid" approach to the auditorium remodel: new carpet, new seating and upgrades to sound and lighting.

In 2010, an Auditorium Committee was charged with evaluating the full scope of the auditorium with student needs coming first. Theater and music professionals were consulted, as were nonprofits that rent the auditorium for their own events. The committee carefully considered the budget and what might be a short-term vs. long-term solution to an outdated space that no longer serves the needs of students or the community. The committee was conscious of making a recommendation to the school board that would constitute judicious use of taxpayer dollars. The current plan enables the district to recycle the existing space and provide a greater return on investment for taxpayers; rather than pay for something that might need to be reconsidered in 10 years, the proposed auditorium remodel will last another 30 to 40 years.

The plan includes safe access to lighting for the purposes of teaching, sound and light booths addressing a wide variety of uses from simple to complex theatrical performances, front lobby space to teach theater management, backstage classrooms/dressing rooms/music practice rooms, storage for the drama department and more. New raised seating for better sight lines, improved acoustics and upgrades in sound and lighting equipment would also be included, as well as compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

This will be a facility that we can all be proud of, with standards that will bring us into line with high school theaters across the country.

For detailed information, please go to the district's website, We thank the taxpayers for their support of public education.

Max Stimac is the choral music director of the school district; Karl Nordstrom teaches drama and speech for the district; Mike Chatterton is the district's business manager; Howard Royal is the district's director of buildings and grounds; Paul Bates serves on the district board of trustees; John Gaeddert represents the Corporation for Land Use and Planning; Hilarie Neely is the director of the Footlight Dance Centre; John Glenn is the co-artistic director of the Company of Fools; and Kim Gasenica is education director for the Sun Valley Summer Symphony.

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