As bulldozers rumbled and construction workers in neon green vests and orange shirts labored nearby, Scott Duncan, Greenwood County School District 50’s maintenance director, said the building going up beside him is a “Greenwood Performing Arts Center,” emphasizing the first word. “It’s for the whole community.”
The arts center is the district’s costliest capital project in years. It will consist of a renovation and expansion of the auditorium at Greenwood High School, will seat 1,000 — about 50 more than the current auditorium — and feature a bigger stage, among other amenities.
The existing auditorium will be converted into two classrooms and a space for the district’s band and dance teams to practice, Duncan said during a tour of the construction site Thursday morning.
Progress during the first 25% percent of any construction project seems rapid, Duncan said, and the performing arts center is no exception. The shell of the expansion is almost complete, and a roof will go on in the next six weeks, at which point most of the work and visible progress will move inside.
The Performing Arts Center was approved by the district’s board of trustees in December 2017. The groundbreaking was initially slated for September 2018, then December of that year, before finally beginning several weeks ago. Duncan said it will likely be completed in late April or early May of 2020.
At a board meeting this spring, then-assistant superintendent of business David Loadholt attributed the delay to the slow pace at which the project moved through regulatory approval.
The cost has gone up as well. Additions mandated by state departments whose approval the district needed in order to move forward and the increased cost of inputs have added some $300,000 to the project, Loadholt said at that meeting. It is now estimated to cost $11.3 million.
When the project was initially approved, the Index-Journal reported that $4.5 million would come from bonds, $3.5 million would come from available funds, and Loadholt said $3 million could come from transfer funds, general funds or other options in the time it will take to complete the project.
The center was approved after a 7-2 vote, with members David Trent and Michael Gaskin dissenting.
“My biggest frustration is that we’ve got a lot more priorities that we need to deal with before we do a project like this,” Trent, now the board chairman, said at the time. “We need home-based art and music teachers in all the elementary schools, we need the students going to art and music once a week and not twice a month and we need that access for everybody.”