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Cary-Grove auditorium project to start this summer

New auditorium expected to be completed by fall 2015

Published: Tuesday, June 10, 2014 11:59 p.m. CST

CRYSTAL LAKE – Community High School District 155 held a public presentation Tuesday on a new $8.5 million auditorium for Cary-Grove High School that showed only a slight increase in the footprint but significant interior improvements. 

Jim Woods, of FGM architects, explained to board members Tuesday the new auditorium would maintain the current 650-person capacity but include needed upgrades for accessibility, lighting and audio, lobby space and backstage areas for performers to dress and move from one side of the stage to the other as well as improved set design areas.

It also will address health concerns, eliminating the large amount of asbestos in the ceiling. No one from the public spoke in opposition to the plan. 

Dave Wilhelmi, of the Cary-Grove Fine Arts Foundation, said he was glad his organization could donate $1.5 million to the project and thanked board members for their support of the arts. 

“We started talking about this about three years ago but at the time there wasn’t a lot of interest,” Wilhelmi said of the project. “Whether it was in dollars or whether it was volunteering to work … without the community this definitely wouldn’t have happened.”

The project will expand the existing auditorium into some of the parking spaces but no spaces will be lost. There is a redundant driving aisle that will be removed and replaced with parking spaces that would have been lost in the expansion. 

The new auditorium also would include a fly-loft area for curtains and backdrops that would be 46 feet 6 inches tall, which is in violation of village ordinances. District officials have worked closely with village leaders throughout the process to avoid the legal issues the district faces with Crystal Lake over a $1.18 million bleacher expansion at Crystal Lake South High School. 

Crystal Lake and District 155 have been in a court battle since August over the issue. 

Board president Ted Wagner thanked Cary officials for working with the district to make the project possible and was optimistic the new auditorium would be ready by the fall 2015 target date.

“We sincerely appreciate the village of Cary,” Wagner said. “This first auditorium has lasted 50 years. I think it’s going to be exciting as we move ahead.”

Construction on the project will start this summer and is expected to finish by the start of the 2015-16 school year. 

Wagner said the Cary-Grove High School seniors starting in 2014-15 deserve the same opportunities as their predecessors, and arrangements have been made for those students in the arts to have performance space. 

Some events are scheduled to take place in the Cary-Grove High School gym while others could be hosted at Crystal Lake South High School, but Wagner said their “ears are open” if any concerns surface during the year. 

While the Cary-Grove Fine Arts Foundation is donating $1.5 million, the other $7 million will come from health safety and capital project funds. Those expenses had already been accounted for in the flat budget approved by the board a month ago.

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