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Mitchell fine arts center nearing completion

Construction work inside the new Mitchell Performing Arts Center continues on Monday afternoon. The center is scheduled for a Jan. 15th open house. (Matt Gade/Republic)1 / 2
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)2 / 2

With freshly-coated paint on its walls, the soon-to-be finished fine arts center is nearing completion and the Mitchell community is anxiously awaiting for opening day.

This includes Mitchell High School band director Ryan Stahle, who called the district's endeavor "awe-inspiring."

"When they turn on the lights, it's amazing," Stahle said. "It really will be the premier theater for sure in South Dakota, it not, arguably in the upper Midwest. That's how cool it is."

The district plans a grand opening for the center on Jan. 15, 2017. Stahle, who is a part of the committee tasked with organizing the opening ceremony, said the band and choir will be performing a piece together for the day. There will also be several speakers from within the school district, the community and a ribbon cutting ceremony.

With the ceremony in place and plans to begin moving in equipment into the building over the district's winter break, from Dec. 23 through Jan. 2, the clock is ticking.

But everything remains on schedule and on budget for the $15.3 million facility, and Stahle, along with Mitchell School District Superintendent Joe Graves, remain confident it will be finished on time.

The walls in the facility's entryway are being painted and flooring will be placed next week, according to Jed Liedtke, the site superintendent with Puetz Corp. The elevator is in place, and the "concrete guys" are working hard in the 1,100-seat theater portion of the building, Liedtke said.

But it's the small details that are taking the longest, Liedtke said, but it's also these same details that make the building what it is.

"You want to rush them, but with something like that you can't rush them," Liedtke said Monday. "With something this grand and this beautiful, you want to make sure every little detail in there is perfect."

In the north side of the facility sits the classroom portion of the fine arts center, which is the closest to completion. This is the area, Graves said, that will be moved into first over winter break. Graves said the last step will be to move into the auditorium approximately a week before the grand opening.

And in the final months of the project, Graves said officials are still accepting donations for the facility. As of Monday, Graves said the amount of donations sits at $865,000. And naming rights for the building and several rooms within the facility are still available.

Lately, there have been more people asking about the facility and its completion date, which is a positive sign, Graves said.

But what Graves is most looking forward to is finally finishing the project.

"Personally, a construction project that goes on for 18 months leaves me exhausted," Graves said. "But I'm just looking forward to having the kind of venue that we can really feature all of our students in theater and vocal music and instrumental music. And we can really have a kind of facility that we've wanted for any number of years to show off the talents and expertise of our kids."

Stahle agrees, and when he was asked what is the most anticipated aspect of the fine arts center, he couldn't choose. The auditorium has "the wow factor," Stahle said, but the available storage and practice space for band and choir is "huge."

"It's surreal," Stahle said.

Neither Graves nor Stahle were sure on what the official first event will be for the fine arts center, other than the grand opening event. But Stahle said after the building is complete a lot of the concerts, plays and other events throughout the district will be held in the multimillion dollar facility.

But like everyone else, Stahle said it is thrilling to see how close the center is to being complete.

"As far as the excitement factor, we have toured the building in the phase of construction probably six to 10 times and every time you go in there, there's so much that's different," Stahle said. "It's kind of awe-inspiring as you walk in."