Proposal for auditorium and fitness center approved by board

This article submitted by Linda Stelling on 9/1/99.

Auditorium proposal A proposal for a new $3.5 million auditorium and fitness center was approved by the Paynesville Area School Board at their Tuesday night meeting, Aug. 24.

A facility task force committee was formed last February. It consisted of about 20 people representing the community, school administration, school board, and teachers. The task force was directed by the board to examine fitness facilities and auditoriums to see what would meet the needs of the district and community. The task force met throughout the summer.

Dr. Bob Gardner, task force committee chairman, informed the board that the committee toured four facilities (Melrose, Becker, Sauk Rapids, and Sartell) to get ideas of what other schools had available. "We had four plans to choose from and make alterations," he told the board. "The issues before the committee were the scope of the project and which components did the district need."

"In looking at the proposed facility, we wanted something the entire community could embrace. One segment without the other would not work," Gardner said. "By having an auditorium for theater and music productions, they could hold rehearsals without conflicting with other uses of the gym (athletic programs and physical education classes)."

In researching fitness centers, the committee primarily looked at facilities with weight rooms. "Our current facility is far smaller and less adequate than anything we saw," Gardner said. The existing weight training facilities in the high school consist of a converted closet for free weights and miscellaneous equipment. The district also has a universal gym unit located in the basement.

Providing public access to the weight training and fitness center was deemed a high priority by the committee. Scheduling at the fitness center would be coordinated with the community education department.

The fitness center would be a 2,900 square foot addition with room for an enclosed office and about 14 equipment stations plus free weights.

The task force learned the graduation standards currently requires both strength and aerobic activities not easily accomplished with the current facilities. Instructors require sufficient space to have a single class of 30 students at a time. In addition, there is not adequate ventilation in either the current free weight or locker room areas for large classes.

Debora Glenz, board member and task force member, stressed the converted closet that serves as the district's weight facility does not meet current graduation standard requirements.

"I personally think we have a reasonable proposal. The idea of an auditorium has been around for as long as I have lived here, which is about 12 years," Gardner said. "The time is right to put forth a bond issue and let the public decide."

Many potential community uses were identified for the auditorium. They included: community and summer theater rehearsals and performances, seminars, visiting performing artists, school choir and band performances, large civic meetings, regional Lions and Jaycee meetings, and adult education activities. The auditorium plans call for a tiered seating area for an audience of 499 people, including handicapped positions. "The reason for staying under 500 is to enable the district to avoid paying royalties for theater productions," Gardner informed the board.

The stage would be 2,500 square feet with a backstage set shop, assembly area, and storage area of about 1,560 feet.

Both the new auditorium and fitness center would be located on the north side of the present school facility where the tennis courts are now positioned. A new public entrance would be constructed on the north side for people using the fitness center, auditorium, or attending school sporting events. The north parking lot would be used as the primary lot for sporting events and activities, thus eliminating the long walk to the west entrance.

A lobby would be adjacent to the existing gym providing sufficient space between the two facilities. The new area could be closed off from the rest of the school facility after hours.

Gardner said it would cost about $108,000 to construct four new tennis courts elsewhere on school property.

Pat Flanders, board chairman and task force member, agreed the time is right for a new bond issue. The district has a current debt of $7 million. "Our statutory limit is $29 million. Because of the size of our debt, we are eligible for state equalization aid based on present legislation to help cover project costs," he said. "Equalization aid could cover approximately 46 percent of the project costs," Flanders added.

The district needs to be given the go ahead by the Minnesota Department of Children, Families, and Learning before moving forward with the project. If the plans are approved, Tuesday, Dec. 14, has been set as a tentative date for a special bond election.

If voters approve the bond issue, construction could start in the spring of 2000 and could be completed by the spring of 2001.

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