Apr 28, 2017.
YORK, Maine — The frame is completed, the outer walls are up, the rooms inside are beginning to take shape. Next week the cement floors will be poured. Soon the seating is coming in. And in less than four months, the York Community Auditorium will be completed.
York High School Principal Karl Francis, members of his Principal Advisory Committee, along with several School Committee members took a tour of the new facility recently. And although the interior remains open and unfinished, the sense of the place is already evident — from the vaulted ceilings to the auditorium risers.
Architect John Michalowski of Harriman Associates took the group through what is now a gaping opening but will soon be fitted with six doors at the main entrance. To the right, will be the ticket booth and beyond that, the concession stand. The entry vestibule, which will have a skylight, opens into an enormous lobby that rises more than 30 feet into the air, creating a sense of spaciousness. The lobby ties into what was once the front doors of the gym as well as into the Common. To the left, metal studs mark the space for the multipurpose room. Someone on the tour asked Francis what the room’s use will be.
“As the name suggests, for everything it possibly can be used for,” he said. “There’s great opportunity for the community and the school. It will be used for wrestling, there will be art shows. Anyone who has need for that space can access it. There’s not one specific purpose,” he said.
As Michalowski led the group from the lobby into the auditorium area, people were clearly impressed.
“This is beautiful,” said School Committee member Gary Phipps. The former York High art teacher said he envisions the lobby as a place to showcase art work — “finally.”
“Right now, you walk down these narrow hallways, and you don’t really see the artwork.” He said former students of his are pursuing art forms in places around the globe. “Wouldn’t it be nice to put together an exhibit of all of these artists” who learned from him at York High?
The group was led into what will be the center of the auditorium — with tiered risers already built that lead up to a second floor that will be accessed via the lobby by either a staircase or by elevator. Below the center aisle the lower risers are in place as well.
Michalowski said there will be aisles on either side as well as two aisles in the center of the risers. The entire auditorium is open. “In my opinion, there’s not a bad seat in here when you think about it,” he said.
The stage area is now just open space with an earthen floor but concrete is being poured next week, said Michalowski, and the stage and rooms behind it will begin to take shape shortly.
According to York School Department facilities manager Zak Harding, the building will be completed Aug. 4. It was supposed to be completed in June, and Harding said no one thing created the delay — rather “just several small issues that add up.”
“There are a lot of building projects going on in the state and it just happens to be that sometimes you’re up against the schedules of subcontractors, roofers, that sort of thing,” said School Committee Chairwoman Julie Eneman. She said when the project was delayed last year due to a zoning glitch, “we knew what we’d be up against. It’s not surprising.”
Phipps said he looks at the auditorium as “an example of how the town took their time and did a nice job. They didn’t say, ‘Well, let’s only do so much and in the future we can add on to it.’ They did it right,” he said. “The community’s going to love it.”
Advisory committee member and parent Steve Hamel said he supported the project initially, but would have liked to have seen a smaller budget.
“My thought was you have a $17 million building and we just put a $10 million addition onto it? But it’s done and I think it’s fantastic. You’re going to bring a ton of kids into theater who weren’t in it before. It’s going to help Berg (choral director Rob Westerberg) with his recruitment for singers, it’s going to help the band program. It’s going to help everyone.”