Work progresses on performing arts center; crews aim for summer finishing date
It’s been more than two years since voters approved building a new performing arts center as part of the 2008 USD 348 bond issue, and it looks be another six or seven months until the facility is completed.
Construction began on the $4.7 million project last spring, with much of the base structure being completed when school started in August. Crews continue to work on the performing arts center, but the target date for finishing the project is summer 2011.
“The project seems to be moving forward quite well,” USD 348 Superintendent Paul Dorathy said. “I think they’re a little ahead of schedule, but they are still looking at a finishing date of sometime this coming summer. If it gets done before then, that’s great, but I don’t think anybody should plan for anything more than it being ready for next school year.”
With the large outside panels in place and the temperature dropping, construction crews have moved to the inside of the performing arts center during the last couple of months. During recent weeks, crews have begun pouring the concrete for the stage and the flooring, as well as filling in the gaps between the pre-cast panels with insulation and caulking.
While the base of the project was built months ago, there is work to be completed on the outside of the building. Part of that work began this week between the PAC and Baldwin High School.
“They are going to be starting on the bus drop-off area behind the PAC,” Dorathy said. “They will also be working on the covered walkway between the high school and junior high.”
When the new facility is finished, there will be a school bus loop southwest of the building. There will be a covered walkway between the buildings so junior high and high school students can stay dry as they make their way to and from buses.
The center will include a better theatrical environment and will also be a Federal Emergency Management Agency safe room for up to 1,800 people. The seating capacity of the new PAC will be 600.
“This one won’t seat many more people, but it will be a whole lot more modernized,” Dorathy said. “The old one has lots of challenges with lighting, sound system, size of the stage and seating issues. The new auditorium addresses all of those issues. It will be much easier for instructors and students to work with.”
Construction has created some problems. The fencing around the site has shrunk the BHS parking lot by approximately one-third of the parking spots. Visitors for activities in the BJHS gymnasium or auditorium must now enter on the east side of the building.
In May, the parking situation may become an even bigger issue. Baldwin High’s annual commencement ceremony attracts hundreds of visitors, who fill or exceed the parking lot east of BHS.
“We can be hopeful we could get some of the parking lot back, but no guarantees that will happen,” Dorathy said. “The good thing is that’s late May, so there is a possibility we could remove some fencing or open some doors, but no guarantees.”
Although there are problems now, Dorathy is excited about the new facility opening.
“I think it will be something that the community will be very proud of when it’s complete,” he said. “It’s multi-purposed in the fact that it’s a performing arts center for the education of students, but it’s also a facility that can be used as a safe room. It will be a great asset for our district.”