In an effort to shift some of its focus to arts, Greenwood County School District 50 is honing in on its plans to add a performing arts center to Greenwood High School.

Board members looked at renderings of the center last Monday, which were based on an auditorium that could seat 1,000 and a stage twice the size of Greenwood High’s current auditorium stage.

David Loadholt, assistant superintendent of business, said the center would be added on to the wing of the current auditorium with some reconfiguration of the school’s parking lot.

Loadholt said the stage will be handicap accessible — something the current auditorium is not from the inside. The old stage is wheelchair accessible from the outside, but not from in the auditorium.

“We’ve moved forward enough in the conceptual drawings to where we can put somewhat of a budget on it,” Loadholt said. “(We’ll) come back in the November board meeting and give you some possible ways to fund the project with existing revenue streams.”

The auditorium represented in the rendering would cost the district about $11 million, but board members said they were interested in looking at the cost options of an auditorium that could seat 1,200, 1,500 and 2,000 as well.

“I didn’t want to get outside of our piggy bank,” Superintendent Darrell Johnson told board members. “When I think about the performances that are held by the school district, 1,000, in my opinion, covers what we would need to take care of that major ACTS program.”

Loadholt said he worked with a district in 1996 where it built an auditorium that could seat 1,500 — its largest student population size at one school.

To get more than 1,000 seats in the auditorium, Loadholt said the center will likely need to have a balcony or mezzanine.

“If you can put two grades from your largest high school in there, that’s about all you’re going to get,” Loadholt said. “We very rarely opened up the balcony, and we very rarely opened up the mezzanine — we were seating about 400 people in that auditorium.”

Loadholt said the other district’s auditorium he referenced was costing that district a little more than $1 million a year to operate.

“That’s another thing to keep in mind is in operational costs, that’s ongoing, that’s not going to come out of the capital budget, its got to come out of that operating budget every year,” Loadholt said.

Greenwood High’s current auditorium can hold 945 people, and Loadholt said the school will still be able to use it while the new one is being built.

But Loadholt said whatever decision is made, the district can’t come back in a few years and change it — once the new center is built, it will be harder to upgrade it than it will be to make the final decisions now.

“Once you go and you say, ‘We want 1,000 seats,’ you can’t go back in three years and go, ‘We need 200 more seats,’ — it’s not going to happen,” Loadholt said. “If you all think back to when we started this project about a year ago, we were trying to put lipstick on a pig on the current auditorium.”

Loadholt said he expects the project to take 20-24 months to complete once it’s started.

He’ll present board members with more information on the options for the center at the November board meeting.

Contact staff writer Ariel Gilreath at 864-943-5644 or follow on Twitter @IJARIELGILREATH.