2017-07-20 / Views

One way to justify an 1,000-seat auditorium

As Glen Lake Community Schools begins examining the need for an auditorium, we suggest proponents think outside of the box — and outside of the school community.

And we suggest that they look northward for an example of how to weld the interests of performing arts communities within and outside the school district.

The plushy seats in the Northport Community Arts Center are busy all summer long, providing clear views of musical concerts, comedians and starting Saturday another round of community theatre with the hilarious “Leading Ladies.” Contrast NCAC’s calendar with that of most school auditoriums, which grow quiet during summer vacations.

NCAC evolved through the desires of community members to expand musical offerings in the community and to upgrade opportunities for students to perform.

Those interests are now in play in southwest Leelanau County, which lacks a premier center to showcase upper level talent already being brought into the community to celebrate the summer season.

Concerts are scheduled along the western half of the Peninsula by the Manitou Music Festival, a wonderful organization that enjoys strong support from the community, and by other groups.

The Festival’s Dune Climb Concert offers an example of the challenges created by an auditorium void. When a fast-moving thunderstorm made performing before one of greatest backdrops in the world impossible, organizers lacked the time to move complex sound systems to the chosen alternative site in the Glen Arbor Township Hall.

And while the hall with its hardwood floor and venerable beams holds a dear place in the community, its acoustics are poor. Its plastic seats may ward off naps during slow times in a performance, but they hardly invoke a desire to press for an encore.

A first-class auditorium, however, would have made setup a breeze. The show could have gone on.

Teachers pressing for the auditorium are looking for a 1,000-seat facility that, to be honest, cannot be justified for use by the school community alone.

But should the auditorium be designed for use by other organizations in the community — say, for instance, a Sleeping Bear Performing Arts Center — the discussion grows more interesting.

Of course, community members with an interest in building such an auditorium would need to organize and, eventually, come to the table with a monetary stake in the project.

School and community groups would need to find common ground while ensuring that their own needs are met.

Which is what happened in Northport, and which resulted in a 475-seat auditorium.

Is the same synergy possible in southwest Leelanau?

We hope so.

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