Residents and teachers applauded after the Mehlville school board unanimously approved a plan for the district’s first performing arts center at a meeting Wednesday night.
The 22,700 square-foot auditorium will seat 525 people and cost approximately $5.8 million. It would house both high schools’ drama programs, as well as host band and choir performances for district schools.
“It’s long overdue, the issue is we’ve always held it over the heads of our taxpayers,” Superintendent Eric Knost said. “I’m laying a plan out for you right now where we don’t have to do that. We can get it done and the community can enjoy it.”
included an auditorium that was attached to the Witzel Building, which the superintendent said desperately needed repairs and a new roof. His goal was to re-establish the building, preserving its historical significance, while adding the auditorium.
As research continued, Knost said demolition to the Witzel Building increased, while the space for the programs inside it decreased. The increased costs of the demolition and compromised integrity of the building caused Knost to look elsewhere.
District architects then proposed an auditorium that would be located directly behind the administration building and attached to the north side of Mehlville High School. The facility would have parking and the design kept the band practice fields intact.
Knost said the Mehlville High School campus had more flexibility than Oakville High School in terms of space, but the auditorium would be a shared facility.
The district will pay for the auditorium through money saved from purchasing Certificates of Participation (COPs) already built into the budget. Chief Financial Officer Noel Knobloch said the district would earn $6 million over 7 years.
Out of that $6 million, the auditorium’s total cost is approximately $5,817,190. Knost said the remaining $182,810 would go toward repairs for the Witzel Building. Both the repairs and auditorium will not require any bond issues or tax increases.
Knost said construction could start as early as this summer and be completed by the start of school or in the fall.
“Nothing here is set in stone,” Knost said about the specific design. “There’s a lot of planning (still involved).”
The board moved to approve the plan with a $6 million spending cap.
Come back Monday for a closer look at the plan, the board’s discussion and the community’s reaction.