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Chamberlain looks at plans for center

CHAMBERLAIN -- A joint city and school committee working on a proposed event/performing arts center in Chamberlain wants to cut costs by reducing the project's size.

Committee members met Monday with Jerry Claseman and Herm Harms of Puetz Corp. in Mitchell about the project, which would adjoin the high school.

School board member Steve Fox, of Chamberlain, told Puetz officials that the project was one-third too large for the district. He suggested moving fine arts into a different facility, and school board member Leanne Larson, of Pukwana, said that would be a logistical nightmare.

"Do we have a better place to have fine arts, or do we end up with no place?" Fox asked. "What we can afford is a Chevy, and we've got to give up the Mercedes. ... If we don't give up something, then we've got nothing."

The project started with a cost of $8 million, then rose to between $10 million to $11 million, Business Manager Terry Brooks said last week.

The school district's share would be $5.2 million, with $1 million of that coming from a bond redemption fund, he said. The district would ask voters to approve a $4.2 million bond issue for the rest, Brooks said.

The city has yet to determine how much financing it can contribute, City Engineer Greg Powell said Tuesday. But if it needs a bond issue, that will be separate from the school district's because it's a different revenue source, he said.

The Orrin and Edith Barger Memorial Foundation has committed to contributing up to $1 million for the project, Powell said.

After Fox's statement, Claseman told city and school officials that they need to figure out how to keep the integrity of what they want to accomplish in the building. He asked for their input on where to cut.

"If you tell us a direction that we need to get this thing down to 50,000 square feet to meet a budgetary number, then I think we need to start hammering on that and see what we can do for you," he said.

Back in February, Chamberlain Mayor Doug Nelson told The Daily Republic that he hoped the performing arts center would hold 500 spectators, and the gym would hold 2,500.

Puetz started with two options. Option K proposed a gym for 2,500 spectators and other rooms such as lockers and concession space, a performing arts center for 500 people, a 4,200-square-foot administration office and 6,570 square feet in pre-event space, such as hallways. Option L proposed a similar-sized gym area, a performing arts center for 550 people, a 4,155-square-foot administration area and 6,405 square feet in pre-event space.

Claseman, who is project coordinator, and Harms, an architect, presented a third option of 60,484 square feet. That involves a gym with angled seating for 2,500 people and other associated rooms at 35,684 square feet, performing arts center with 515 seats at 13,788 square feet, administration area with 4,871 square feet and pre-event space with 6,141 square feet.

Compared to what's called Option K, this has less gym space and common areas, with more room for the performing arts center and administration area.

Powell asked about the difference in size between collegiate and high school size courts and if the building could be shrunk with a smaller court.

Harms replied that a high school court is 10 feet smaller in length and said seats could be angled to use corners more. A roughly 17,000-square-foot gym without other rooms would have 1,992 seats, saving about 500 seats and 5,000 square feet for the total model, he said.

"Cutting one-third of the seats won't cut you one-third of the budget," Fox said, adding the committee needs to cut seating 40 percent in both areas.

City Commissioner Chad Mutziger said if the gym was cut to 1,500 seats and performing arts center to 300, it would be similar to current facilities. He asked whether locker or weight rooms should be sacrificed.

Superintendent Debbie Johnson said she wanted a performing arts center with about 500 seats.

Larson questioned whether a new gym is needed, given the existing National Guard Armory that is used by the school. Mutziger said the armory is not suitable for long-term use, noting bathrooms are inadequate and concession stands are a mess. He added that a new gym could be used for graduation.

The committee considered other possibilities, such as moving seating in the gym or removing common space just north of the gym on option K. Powell said Tuesday that Puetz will work on reducing the size of option K.

Harms told the group he could have an updated architectural drawing ready in two weeks.