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Auditorium to get new audiovisual lighting equipment

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When Center Grove High School hosted the Best of the Midwest choir event in February, the auditorium’s audio equipment wasn’t up to the task.

The theater’s speakers and amplifiers can’t adequately carry sound throughout the theater. Other times the equipment broadcasts interference or has dead spots, which distracts from performers’ singing. If Center Grove wanted to continue hosting the event, the school district had two choices: start renting audio and lighting equipment for major productions, or replace the equipment already in the auditorium, director of maintenance Dave Statler said.

None of the auditorium’s equipment — including the controls for the house lights, the audiovisual components and a makeshift control booth, has been updated since the mid-1990s when the theater was first built, Statler said. This summer, school officials will start updating the auditorium’s equipment, which will be used by drama, choir and band students.

“Right now the systems in place do not support the programing we have,” Statler said.

Last month, the school board approved spending a total of $446,000 to replace the lighting controls and the audio and visual system. Center Grove will pay for the project using money it borrowed last year and with property tax dollars for building upgrades and maintenance.

Work on the auditorium should begin in June and be complete in July, before the first day of the fall semester, Statler said. This project is unrelated to a $20 million building project the school district is planning to renovate the high school’s media center and to widen some of the building’s hallways. That project is also expected to begin later this year.

The renovations could enable Center Grove to start regularly renting the auditorium to outside groups. Franklin schools already rents its auditorium to organizations, including dance troupes, as a way to make money and support its performing arts program.

“This is a positive move to enhance our productions, and perhaps even attract some outside things that could be a source of revenue for some of our various appropriate departments,” school board member Carol Tumey said last month.

But the upgrades are needed primarily to ensure drama, music and other fine arts groups have the venue they need for their performances, Statler said.

“Our primary objective is to support our programs, our fine arts, which we already have in place,” Statler said.

The new lighting unit will mean students won’t have to take circuits or parts from other areas in order to make repairs. Right now, the unit that controls the auditorium’s lighting is so old that replacement parts no longer exist. So when a circuit breaks, students replace it with one from somewhere else in the theater.

Center Grove also will replace the existing control booth with a new area that has wires running under the floor instead of on top of it and with a control board that’s easier to use, Statler said. The new controls can be programmed with different settings needed for plays, concerts or school-wide presentations. Once the new control board is ready, someone should be able to flip a switch or press a button and have the house lights dim or brighten as needed, Statler said.

School officials started planning for the auditorium upgrades about two years ago. In that time they identified the projects they believed were priorities and started looking for ways to pay for them, Statler said.

Board members asked Statler to create a list this summer of additional upgrades that could be made to the auditorium in the future. The auditorium’s part-time director is creating that list now, Statler said.

Center Grove won’t likely have the money needed to make all of the repairs on the list anytime soon, but Statler said he eventually would like to replace the auditorium’s lights. Right now the auditorium has quartz halogen lights. Statler said he wants to transition to LED lights, which would be more energy-efficient.

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