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Fill the Void — for less

  • ConVal Visual and Performing Arts Center President Rob Eichler presented an updated plan with a much-decreased cost for the proposed arts center to the ConVal School Board. Staff photo by Ashley Saari—Monadnock Ledger-Transcript

  • ConVal Visual and Performing Arts Center President Rob Eichler presented an updated plan with a much-decreased cost for the proposed arts center to the ConVal School Board. Staff photo by Ashley Saari

  • Plans for the revised ConVal Visual and Performing Arts Center show a large stage and about 400 retractable seats. —Courtesy photo

  • Plans for the revised ConVal Visual and Performing Arts Center show a large stage and about 400 retractable seats. —Courtesy photo



Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Thursday, August 09, 2018 9:51AM

A group working to build a performing arts center at ConVal High School presented a new plan at a school board meeting in Peterborough Tuesday night. The new plan reduces the estimated cost of the project by millions of dollars.

The center would be built as an addition to the high school and would serve as both an educational space and a venue for school and community performances. A previous design for the center was estimated to cost about $11.5 million. As the project is meant to be constructed with private funds, that number seemed out of reach for fundraising, ConVal Visual and Performing Arts Center President Rob Eichler said at the school board meeting.

The new plan reduces that cost to an estimated $6.5 million, if built today. This new design would still having all the elements needed to meet the needs of both the school and the community, Eichler said. If built in 2020, Eichler estimated construction costs would closer to $8 million.

“The net is that we’ve come up with a much less costly version,” he said.

The new version of the plan would be a 17,100 square foot space, with a stage large enough to accommodate an 80-piece concert band, and seating for up to 400 people.

The seating would be retractable, similar to how bleachers are constructed, Eichler said, except that the seats are fully padded chairs typical of a theater. Seating would be in sections, so the amount of seats could be adjusted to match the performance, or all stowed away to allow an open space for events like dances or a robotics competition.

Bob Edwards, another member of the ConVal Visual and Performing Arts Center group, told that board the group has already approached about 45 potential private donors to gauge their interest in the project, and now with designs in hand, would be returning to them to see what level of funding might be available through the community. That will be a focus over the next year to 18 months, he said.

“We will know what we can raise in that time,” he said.

School Board Vice Chair Rich Cahoon, who represents Antrim, questioned whether the group was confident it would be able to raise the funds privately.

“$6.5 million assumes breaking ground tomorrow, and that’s not going to happen,” Cahoon said. “You said that $11.5 million is outside of the giving capacity of the region. So what is the giving capacity?”

Eichler said other similarly priced improvements in Keene and Peterborough had been able to reach their goals, though the group would know more after it began fundraising in earnest.

“We had an explicit agreement that this is a private project,” Cahoon said. “If it’s going to morph into a public-private partnership, we need to know that as soon as possible.”

Bob Edwards, who is vice-president of ConVal Visual and Performing Arts Center, told the board it would only come to that if the group was able to raise a significant amount of the funds but was unable to close the final gap – they are not at this point considering that avenue, he said.

Eichler requested the board renew a memorandum of understanding between the district and the ConVal Visual and Performing Arts Center group, which expires at the end of this year, for three years to allow them to continue working on fundraising and other aspects of the project. The board agreed to review the memorandum and bring it back to the board at a future meeting to vote on extending it. Cahoon also urged the board to look at a “plan b” and start looking at a capital plan for the district’s existing theater facilities, the Lucy Hurlin Theater.

“Currently, in our five-year capital plan for our current facilities, nothing is planned,” Cahoon said. “At some point, we have to do something with our existing space if [the ConVal Visual and Performing Arts Center] doesn’t happen.”

School Board member Linda Quintanilha, who represents Bennington, agreed, saying “We’ve been talking about Lucy Hurlin since I was in high school.”

Ashley Saari can be reached at 924-7172 ext. 244 or asaari@ledgertranscript.com. She’s on Twitter @AshleySaariMLT.