The site of the Historic Washington Auditorium is currently under construction as part of the ongoing capital improvement projects within the Washington Court House City School (WCHCS) district.
WCHCS Superintendent Dr. Tom Bailey recently spoke about the auditorium.
“Our goal ever since I got here was to fix up the auditorium and restore it back to its glory days in terms of appearance and functionality,” said Bailey. “So, we’ve been very fortunate over the past several years to receive small capital improvement grants through the state legislature. We did receive them a couple of years ago. Right when COVID started we did receive $325,000 for improvements there, and we are fortunate enough to receive another $300,000 for this current biennium, so that’s a little over a half million dollars for improvements there. One of our major obstacles at the auditorium was just the enormity of that entire complex that we own and the fact that the good majority of that complex we were not utilizing, and it has sat vacant since our schools were built back in 2010.”
He continued, “There was really no upkeep to the classroom parts, the office parts of that building and that’s become just very dilapidated and rundown and really, quite frankly a health hazard and an eyesore for the community. As it sat there, vandalism and things happened over there, we had boarded up windows. We want to be good stewards of not only taxpayer money, but we also want to be good stewards to the community in providing property that is appealing and looks nice and increases the value of homes in our communities.”
Dr. Bailey talked about what exactly will be going on at this location.
“We are in the process of taking down the majority of the building, and it’s nothing new. We’ve been talking about that for several years. Actually, it’s coming into fruition very quickly. So, if you go over there, especially down the Paint Street sides of that building, you can see where most of the windows are out. We did that because we have to, by law, remove any asbestos that’s still in the building. There was some asbestos in the caulking of the old windows, so we had that removed. There’s a company that is sawing the building away from the auditorium. They saw just like you would a tree. They’ll saw the concrete, the steel pipes, everything straight down where we want to demolish the building, so it does not hurt our auditorium building. Once they get that sawed down, then they will be able to do demolition. The sawing of that facility will take approximately two weeks just to saw through all that. Once that’s done, then demolition will happen within a few days. I would say by mid-September, the majority of that campus will be rubble, and we’ll move that out.”
He then spoke about what this space will be used for.
“Our goal is to turn that whole lot, which is fairly big, into parking for our facility there so that we have ample parking. We own three very small lots over there and one of them is not really in close proximity to the venue, so this will be contingent parking to the venue. It will add about 140 parking spaces there for our student plays, academy of scholars, or anything that we offer there, and we’re really excited about that. It’s going to look nice. It’s going to be a lighted parking lot. We’re really excited about people being able to park and not having to park on the street and walk a mile away to the venue.”
Bailey talked about the classrooms that are next to the auditorium, which they will be keeping.
“We already turned one of the classrooms into two very nice bathrooms and that happened a year and a half ago or so. We are making sure that the space is going to have proper ventilation, HVAC installed there and then we’re going to start fixing up the interior of the building itself. We’re going to make sure that we have a space that’s suitable for students who are in the fine arts program. We value the fine arts much like we do for our athletes. We make sure we have suitable competition venues for football, basketball, and volleyball. We want to make sure that we have a suitable venue for our fine arts kids by making sure that they have dressing rooms and bathrooms, and we have all the amenities that they need.”
He continued, “Once we get that taken care of, then we will be able to write grants and do fundraising to start the restoration of the auditorium itself. Through that process, we hope to have it newly remodeled, so it looks brand new inside. That’s just going to take time and money, obviously, and we’re trying to be good stewards of taxpayer money. We’re trying to do this on grants and that sort of thing, but we also know that if we don’t do something, the facility will continue to deteriorate on the inside. So again, we just want to provide the best programming we can to our kids, while providing a space that the community can be proud of.”
“Back in 2006 when the bond issue was passed, the community chose not to build a brand-new auditorium for our students in fine arts,” Bailey said. “Now, it’s time to kind of put our money where our mouth is in terms of up-keeping the facility that they wanted to keep in 2006. It’s been there since the 1930s and will be coming up on its 90th anniversary here soon. We hope that whatever we do there will allow that facility to be there 90 years from now.”