DARKE COUNTY - The St. Clair Memorial Hall will receive $500,000 in state capital appropriation funding to allow for major renovations.
“I think it impacts a substantial portion of Darke County and I think its a wonderful asset that we need to foster in the community,” said Memorial Hall Renovation Project Manager Matt Jordan. “It’s nice to be recognized by the state even though we have a smaller population.”
The extensive list of renovations include new seating, carpeting, intelligent production lighting, repainting the indoor facilities and even new signage out front.
Jordan received the good news on March 14 after the appropriations were confirmed by a representative of Senate President Keith Faber’s Office via phone.
The last major Memorial Hall renovation occurred in the 1980’s, which updated the facility’s general appearance and functionality.
The overall renovations are expected to unfold over a two-year period, partially to accommodate Memorial Hall’s already busy schedule.
“We have a very small window each year to work within,” said Jordan.
The planned renovations were initiated last year by the Darke County Endowment for the Arts after hiring Jordan to perform a theatrical equipment and facilities evaluation. Jordan previously taught and worked within the field of theatrical design and technology, and has a related master’s degree from Tulane University.
An initial evaluation revealed that Memorial Hall’s lighting equipment, drapery, and key stage components needed improvement, and that the cost to renovate the items would total around $165,000.
Seating and carpeting renovations were initially tabled due to concerns of wear and tear caused by student usage, as the building is shared between the Darke County Center for the Arts and the Greenville School District. The school district has also contributed hundreds of thousands of dollars over the past few years to repair structural issues.
However with the 2013 Greenville school levy passing, much of the student traffic would be reduced on a day basis due to relocation.
Therefore, another evaluation was conducted after the levy which included a closer look at Memorial Hall’s auditorium, specifically addressing new seating, flooring, painting, scaffolding, ambient lighting and chandeliers. The size of the facility and stage will remain unchanged.
After quite a bit of legwork, the new evaluation estimate totaled $700,000 to complete the project from beginning to end. Even though a budget was developed, the Darke County Endowment for the Arts was not yet near the construction phase, and estimated a two year time span to fund raise.
But in January, Sen. Faber’s office reached out to the Darke County Center for the Arts and recommended that they apply for capital improvement funding from the state. Within days, Jordan prepared a proposal explaining the virtues of Memorial Hall and why the organization was trying to complete the project.
“The works done in the 1980’s put a face lift on the hall that has been enjoyed for 30 years,” read the proposal. “Unfortunately, time takes its toll on the heavily used space and we are requesting funds to bring the theater into the 21st century.”
Now with the announcement of the sizable capital improvement funding, the project is mostly funded and plans can move forward.
In addition, more than $60,000 of the full estimate cost has already been accounted for, as a new sound system was installed in 2013 due to generous community donations as well as from Darke County Endowment for the Arts and Darke County for the Arts funds.
The rest of the difference, roughly $100,000, will ideally be generated within the community.
And hopefully, that won’t be too difficult a task considering the project momentum, said Jordan.
“I’m actually amazed how much support there is in Darke County for Memorial Hall and the programs that are performed there.”