Basic upgrade of junior high auditorium could cost up to $2.2 million

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When a chunk of the plaster from the ceiling fell into the seating in the Junior High School auditorium the District 777 Board of Education knew it was likely facing a costly fix before the building could be back in use.

At this point, the junior high auditorium, which is the home to plays, music concerts, dance recitals, physical education classes, and sporting events, is not expected to be available during the 2017-2018 school year.

At its meeting June 19, architect Paul Youngquist, of Architects Rego + Youngquist of St. Louis Park, laid out a three-tiered plan for upgrading the auditorium with costs ranging from $2.2 million to more than $5 million.

A new auditorium would be about 19,000 square feet and at $280 a square foot would come to $5.3 million, Youngquist told the school board. Then add in the equipment, lighting, heating, a sound system, and the price is up to $6.5 million. Finally, add in engineering costs, furnishings, contingencies and by the time you are all done you are at $8.1 million, he said.

“You do have an asset there,” Youngquist said of the old Junior High auditorium that was built in 1927-28. “It would be a lot of money to replace it. The question now is what do you want to do with it?”

All his estimates of the work to overhaul the auditorium are based on being able to make the structure sound for $200,000, Youngquist told the school board. If it comes back it is $600,000 that changes things.
The first issue to address is the ceiling and roof.

The roof structure is steel beams 14-feet on center and then a bunch of two-by-tens going from steel beam to steel beam, he said. Then wood one-by-eights are laid down diagonally with the roof insulation and roofing material on top of it. Hanging down from the two-by-tens are one-by-fours about every four feet and they are attached to two-by-fours to which the white ceiling is fixed, Youngquist explained.

“Everything below the two-by-tens would come off with the two-by-tens checked out for soundness. If they are rotten, the board needs to know about it,” he said. July 10 a company is coming in to do an infrared scan of the junior high structure that should show any major structural problems.

To take the ceiling down means erecting scaffolding in the whole auditorium, Youngquist said. A new ceiling will be installed with acoustic panels added on the wall.

Another cost for the renovation will likely include a requirement from the state to install a lift from the lower seating area to the raised stage.  Painting the walls, 581 new chairs, and adding new railings bring the basic renovation of the auditorium to $735,000.

If the school district were going to go through the cost of sprucing up the whole place, it would seem like that would be the time that it would install a new air handling system with the air conditioning and improve the fire protection system. That adds another $775,000 to the cost.

With the ceiling being reconstructed, it makes sense to upgrade the lighting in the auditorium, he said. That would cost $218,000 and would include new house lighting as well as new stage lighting.    

When the architectural and engineering fees, permits, contingency costs, inflation, and other costs are included, the total basic project comes to $2,229,507. “At $2.2 million you’ve really done a nice job on the place and it looks sharp,” he said.

But once the school district starts a major overhaul of the auditorium it might want to consider other improvements as well, Youngquist said. He recommended taking out the small and infrequently used two bathrooms on the main floor behind the seating area near the entry.  Taking the two back bathrooms out would mean opening up the junior high so that its bathrooms would serve the auditorium....


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