NEW LONDON—Since the first breaking ground on the District 345 building projects August 22, 2016, the NL-S Performing Arts Center officially received its Certificate of Occupancy last Friday having completed all facets of construction save for minor punch list items.
Following student-led tours of the facility during Monday evening’s “Sneak Peek” event, the PAC saw use in its first official capacity during Wednesday evening’s Honors and Awards Program.
Subsequent upcoming events scheduled at the site include the NL-S Middle School Bands and Choirs’ Spring Concert 7 p.m. May 17, as well as their Pops Concert 7 p.m. May 18.
Also open to the public at the PAC is the “Screenagers” event May 24 from 5:30-8:30 p.m.
PAC by the numbers
With a price tag of $9,673,187 and volume measuring an approximately 33,000 square feet, features of the PAC include:
- 650 seats plus additional accessibility seating.
- Six bathrooms, two showers and 12 toilets.
- 40,000 lbs. of counterweights in the rigging system.
- Five miles of cable rigging.
- Over 20,000 feet of underground piping.
- 35 rigging and lighting sets.
- A 50-foot flyloft.
- Stainless steel mesh on handrails and screen walls.
- Covered orchestra pit.
According to Superintendent Paul Carlson, the PAC’s sophisticated rigging systems and overall structure was likened by the building inspector to that of the Guthrie Theater in Minneapolis.
“The flyloft, by regulation can’t be any taller than 50 feet; ours is 48.5,” he said.
Carlson also notes that while most high school performing arts centers feature eight-to 12 riggings in their respective rigging systems, NL-S’s consists of a total of 35.
Despite the long wait, Carlson said the public reception has been favorable.
“I think all of the comments have been very positive. In talking with people and looking at pictures on our Facebook page, a lot of the comments are saying it’s very beautiful, and that it’s wonderful for kids to be able to perform in a theater. It was well worth the wait.”
In addition to providing drama and music students a venue in which to perform, the PAC also will allow tech-minded students the opportunity to run up-to-date theatrical equipment.
Along with NL-S IT Coordinator Dan Rajewsky, the technical support aspects of the center will be run by Lead Technician, Jonah Johnson.
Johnson, a graduate of Saint Cloud State University’s computer science program, has been contracted to oversee the bulk of the theater’s rigging, lighting and sound operations, of which he will in turn train students (and staff) to operate.
“[Johnson] made clear to us that students have the ability to run tech with the theater,” Carlson said. “We want to give the students opportunities to run state-of-the art equipment that could translate into career opportunities.”
Added to his degree in computer science, Johnson also has previous experience with managing local high school performing arts centers, including those of Paynesville, Annandale and Dassel-Cokato.
“When we were still touring area PAC’s, we did a tour with [Johnson] when visiting Paynesville, and so it was neat to get to know him a bit more in that role and felt it would be a good it for him to do ours.”
Video-recorded trainings on various aspects of sound, rigging and lighting also have been provided to speech, drama and band instructors including Paula Prill, Naomi Powers-Baker and Nick Mason.
While students will be trained in multiple operational components of the PAC, Carlson said they will not be tasked with the set-up of the acoustical shell and pit cover.
“We want them to know the mechanics of it, but it’s pretty physical work and we want to ensure the moving panels are handled by a number of trained adults.”
Lakes Area Review by Brett Blocker, Editor