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Mitchell fine arts center set to open Feb. 1

Last week the asphalt was laid down for the parking lots surrounding the new Mitchell Performing Arts Center while landscaping work continues on Monday afternoon. (Matt Gade/Republic)

An opening date for the Mitchell School District’s multi-million dollar performing arts center has been set.

But while students at Mitchell High School only have to wait a few more weeks before stepping into the $15.3 million center, the rest of the community will be waiting a little longer.

After some construction delays caused the grand opening to be canceled on Jan. 15, Superintendent Joe Graves announced Tuesday that the center will be open for events and students will begin occupying classroom space Feb. 1. Graves said a few minor touches are left to complete the facility, along with waxing the floors, and then all of the equipment can be moved in.

“It’s good to have it done,” Graves said about setting an opening date for the state-of-the-art facility.

Graves said the grand opening for the 67,000-square-foot facility will not be held until April 9. The reason for the later grand opening date was to allow donors to be in attendance, Graves said, who were “critical” to making the PAC a reality.

“We really wanted to have the grand opening and make sure all of (the donors) could attend simply because they were such active participants and the project would not have gone forward without them,” Graves said.

The first event in the new facility will be the Palace City Jazz Festival on Feb. 7. Other major events, such as Mitchell High School’s all-school talent show on Feb. 24 and the Show Choir Classic on March 18, will also be held in the PAC auditorium, Graves said.

The delay is slightly disappointing for Mitchell High School band director Ryan Stahle, but mostly he is anxious to finally get into the facility in February.

“I’m probably more content with the fact that they’re really making sure everythings is right, and not sidestepping any processes and making sure it’s done the way it’s supposed to,” Stahle said. “Delaying that is a small price to pay for eventually getting in there and use those facilities.”

With the facility opening on Feb. 1, that leaves Stahle and the rest of the high school less than a week to prepare for the Palace City Jazz Festival, which left Stahle a little nervous.

But he remains hopeful that everything will work itself out, Stahle said, and he and other staff and students will make it priority to get into the auditorium and familiarize themselves with the new digs.

“The jazz festival is not a monster event where we’re bringing in thousands of people. It’s about 15 different schools and we’ve been doing for eight years, so we kind of have the process down to a fairly good science and we will be fine,” Stahle said.

The grand opening was originally delayed because the building’s safety systems — such as fire alarms — were not yet installed and without those, the building could not be occupied for an event, Graves said.

Excavation began for the facility in June 2015, and the building features a 1,200-seat theater, a new classroom wing and additional space for the district's fine arts offerings.

Although the grand opening has been set back a few months, Graves said it will still feature performances by both the Mitchell High School band and choir. The event will also include several speakers from within the school district, the community and a ribbon cutting ceremony.

Two events will be affected by the delayed opening. One is for the Mitchell Area Chamber of Commerce, which was scheduled for Jan. 20. The 2017 Mitchell Chamber & Development Corporation Annual Recognition Night event has been moved to the Overtime Events Center and will still be held at 6 p.m. on Jan. 20.

The second event is a one-act play, which will now be held in the Mitchell High School auditorium on Jan. 30.

Donations are still welcome for the fine arts center, Graves said, and naming rights are still available for the building in its entirety, the vocal music room, the show choir practice room and the black box theater.

Stahle is looking forward to not only the upcoming events scheduled to be in the PAC, but also for future state events, such as All-State Jazz Band, that could take place in Mitchell.

“It’ll be exciting to see those larger events happen in Mitchell,” Stahle said. “... Every time you walk in there, it gets a little closer looking like it’s ready to go. You just start to get excited and anxious.”