MHS fine arts center remains on schedule

The proposed $13.5 million fine arts center for the Mitchell School District remains on schedule for the district's timeline, as another procedural hurdle approaches on Monday.

The proposed $13.5 million fine arts center for the Mitchell School District remains on schedule for the district's timeline, as another procedural hurdle approaches on Monday.

The Mitchell Board of Education will decide Monday during its regular December meeting at Longfellow Elementary School whether or not to put the project out for bid to contractors. If approved, those bids would be awarded during a special meeting in January 2015, and potentially starting construction in the spring. The school has eyed fall 2016 for an opening date.

Superintendent Joe Graves said that's about where the school expected to be at this point.

"We're basically right where we need to be," he said, adding that the board's approval wouldn't oblige the board to the project any more than what has been approved already.

In the school board's packet for Monday's meeting, there's about 150 pages of documents, most of them containing architectural drawings and schematics from MSH Architects, of Sioux Falls, and they lay out the plans for every inch of the building.


"We'll present the project as simply and as succinctly as we can, because there's a lot there," said Robin Miller, who is the CEO of MSH Architects. "It's the district's project and ultimately, it's their decision. Hopefully, they'll keep going and get this bid out."

The biggest change in the process of the new building is that the district changed the location of the facility in October, to a design that would connect with the Mitchell Career and Technical Education Academy building on its west and southwest sides. The fine arts center committee -- made up of school officials, school board members and stakeholder groups that would be the building's primary users -- decided on that location over four others because the space was mostly unused and would clean up that portion of campus. Miller said that originally wasn't a consideration, and he was skeptical that it would work.

"But the more we worked with it, the more and more it became clear that it was a great option," he said. "That really is the site that gives the school the most flexibility."

Miller and the fine arts center committee toured three school theaters -- O'Gorman, Sioux Falls Washington and Brandon Valley High Schools -- to get an understanding from teachers and administrators of what worked and what didn't. The buildings seat between 800 and 1,000 people. Mitchell has plans for a 1,240-seat facility to replace its current 600-seat theater. Committee members also tested out MSH's array of seating options for the theater, Miller said.

Graves said following the October meeting that changed the location of the building that he would follow up with local groups of stakeholders -- those in the music, drama, speech and debate programs -- that would use the facility the most. He said the feedback to the building's general design and location has been positive.

"We've had people pleased, in general," he said. "I think the fact that it now attaches to an existing building and in an area where we have the room for it has been good."

Board President Theresa Kriese, who also serves on the task force, said she feels comfortable with the way the task force has developed a plan so far, and the direction of the project.

"I think when you look at the potential uses and the opportunities for the facility, I think it's exciting," she said. "I'm comfortable about where things are headed."


The building will include two balconies in the theater and a large area for stage preparation, plus an additional black box theater, which are usually small, square rooms with black walls and a flat floor, providing an intimate performing space for small audiences. The building will include new classrooms for the school's music programs, plus rehearsal, ensemble and storage space.

Kriese said one of the primary developments to come from the committee and its meeting was that residents didn't want to see Capital Street closed as part of a new Mitchell High School campus.

"When you look at the overall campus setting, moving the whole campus to one side of the street makes a lot of sense," she said.

The project at a glance

• Cost: $13.5 million

• Square feet: 65,398

• Main theater seats: 1,240,802 on the main level.

• Building height: 67 feet (The Corn Palace is 68 feet tall).


• Parking spots: 345 spots

-- Source: Mitchell School District, MSH Architects

Traxler is the assistant editor and sports editor for the Mitchell Republic. He's worked for the newspaper since 2014 and has covered a wide variety of topics. He can be reached at
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