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Theater addition to East Ridge still alive, but delayed

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In late 2007, the Arts Connection told District 833 that it wanted to build a theater and arts center as part of East Ridge High School at Pioneer Drive and Bailey Road in Woodbury.

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District officials and school board members agreed an 8,000 to 10,000 square foot $2.5 million addition, paid for by Arts Connection donors, would enhance school facilities.

Superintendent Tom Nelson suggested the theater would be cheaper to build if construction bidding was done along with district bids and set a deadline for March of this year.

There wasn't enough donated money when the deadline passed.

At the Dec 18 school board meeting, Michelle Swarmer Witte, fundraising coordinator, said the connection had $1.9 million in pledges and donations, not enough for construction next year.

She expects, through seat naming rights, that funding will be secured for construction at the end of the 2010 school year.

When the complex is built, Arts Connection will have to reimburse the district for $30,000 in disturbed landscaping, but there is currently room for the theater complex to be attached to the back of the 900-seat auditorium being built.

Arts Connection also has a $1 million endowment for ongoing expenses to run the facility, which will have a small theater for rehearsals while the auditorium is being used and for smaller performances. It will also have a space for actors and production workers to move from one side of the auditorium to the other behind the stage.

The addition will have storage and scenery space for the Woodbury Community Theater, flexible space with mirrors and bars for dancers to practice and an area to display visual arts. There would also be a wall filled with donor names.

Arts Connection has been active in Woodbury for 32 years, according to Witte, and serves the other communities in the area.

The theater complex would be available for use by the public and East Ridge students.

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Judy Spooner is the longest-serving staff writer at the South Washington County Bulletin. Spooner, who covers education and features in addition to writing a weekly column, has been with the newspaper for over 30 years.
(651) 459-7600
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