The new Ottawa High School Performing Arts Center was unveiled to the community for the first time Friday at a ribbon-cutting ceremony.
The 856-seat PAC is a state-of-the-art building that can be used in a variety of ways.
“This is a space that draws together a community,” said Ryan Cobbs, Ottawa school superintendent. “This is something different. You can see that by the crowd of people here. That is something that garners a great deal of humbleness from me. We have been able to do something for our community that should be appreciated and shared. You walk in today and get to see the finished product, which is just incredible. It is really awe-inspiring. It is a great space.”
A PAC has been on the drawing board for decades. Cobbs said it was in the original plans of OHS in its initial bond issue in the 1960s. He said it was cut out of plans in the 1970s and 1980s.
“This has been a lightning rod in this district for years,” Cobbs said. “Again, when we started this process, it was talked about cutting it out. It was one of those things that enough people stood up (and said), ‘we have to do this for our kids.’ There is going to be a sense of relief and there is going to be sense of pride instilled. Our kids love what has happened here. It is an incredible space.”
The PAC is one of the final pieces of the $63.5 million bond issue passed in 2015. The PAC cost was $9 million.
“For the most part, this wraps up the end of the bond,” Cobbs said. “The Pre-K Center at Garfield is on the verge of being wrapped up as well. It is an opportunity for our district to focus on what our spaces provide versus getting our spaces ready to go. We have to really commend our teachers and our students, especially at Ottawa High School. They have been displaced, had hallways shut off, gone to the middle school (for classes), and there have been so many things they have not been able to utilize in this building. We are going to get construction and sub-contractors out of here and let our kids have their space. It is going to be an incredible feeling.”
Cobbs said patrons coming to a performance will receive a great experience.
“The audio/visual piece of this is the state-of-the-art,” he said. “They are the best that we can get. The acoustics will create a sound that is unlike any other. The engineering and architecture of this space is second to none.”
Cobbs said auditorium seating can be pared down if needed to provide an even greater audio/visual experience.
“When we only need 300 seats of it, we can shut it off and manage that space where the sound stays in that area,” Cobbs said. “It really impacts it in a much greater light. We can capture sound in certain areas.”
Cobbs said the initial response from students and others has been emotional.
“We showed this space off to students before anybody else got to see it,” Cobbs said. “We chose some students and staff to come and see it and get some idea of what their response was going to be. They were brought to tears. There is something about this space that elicits a response that shows our kids that they have a place. This is where they have a home. This is something they can be proud of.”
Just like all other district facilities, the PAC will be available for community use.
“It is a Performing Arts Center and that is what its initial intent is,” he said. “We want to make sure we have great student access to it and be able to utilize it for assemblies and speakers that come into our building. We want to make it a community space. For the remainder of this year, that is probably not going to happen. There is so much we have to learn on how we utilize the space and how every thing in it works. We want this to be a space the community utilizes and feels proud of. It goes back to our community. They provided this for us. They should share in celebration of opening this space.”
Cobbs said the end of construction projects is starting to hit home.
“The finality of all of this is we can quit talking about spaces, construction and bond projects," he said. "We can focus back on what USD 290 provides for our students. We can utilize those spaces to create great instruction.”