TRAVERSE CITY — Logan Dell'Acqua stomped around Central High School's stage during a student performance of "Fiddler on the Roof" when something unexpected happened.
A built-in stage light that was supposed to be glued down and painted over popped up at Dell'Acqua's feet.
"It was surprising, I'll say that," said Dell'Acqua, now a senior at Central.
Dell'Acqua danced on without incident during that fall 2012 performance. A near-tumble over an unexpected light is the type of quirk he's become used to after years of performing at the aged high school auditorium. It's also the type of quirk performing arts students and staff hope is a thing of the past, if voters agree to a $13-million, .09-mill Traverse City Area Public Schools' ballot proposal for auditorium reconstruction at Central.
The millage will cost $9 in taxes annually on a piece of property worth $200,000 in market value if approved, TCAPS officials said. The auditorium proposal is one of two TCAPS ballot proposals on the ballot.
Central's auditorium dates back 1959. TCAPS officials have long said the existing facility's inadequate technology and space limit both the size and quality of student performances.
Paul Mahon, the district's director of capital projects and maintenance, said the auditorium's lighting, sound and electrical systems need to be updated. Small wings on either side of the stage and limited storage and rehearsal spaces also are problematic. So is the lack of an orchestra pit.
Wendee Wolf-Schlarf, TCAPS' K-12 music coordinator, said the current auditorium is an acoustic nightmare.
"We call this the box because (the sound) just goes out and stays put," Wolf-Schlarf said. "It doesn't resonate."
Seating is a concern, too. The auditorium contains roughly 540 seats, but many of those are creaky and falling apart. Dell'Acqua demonstrated such during a choir group practice last week when he held up an arm rest that had broken clean off a seat.
The proposed reconstruction project is an attempt to make Central's auditorium equitable with the performing arts facilities at Traverse City West Senior High School. The intent is to increase seating to 670, add an orchestra pit and replace lighting and sound systems, among other improvements.
"I'm not looking for the Taj Mahal," Central Principal Rick Vandermolen said. "I'm looking for a facility that meets our students' needs."
Opulence was a worry for many voters who cited a proposed state-of-the-art, 1,200-seat auditorium reconstruction as a particular sticking point in TCAPS' failed, $100-million millage request last year.
TCAPS officials spent months reviewing what went wrong last November after that millage fell by about 7,000 votes. Officials decided to reduce the scope of the proposed auditorium reconstruction, and to break off that project from a main .2-mill, $35-million capital project proposal on the same ballot.
Now the auditorium reconstruction needs to stand on its own merit to win voter approval.
About 55 percent of voters supported or leaned toward supporting a 670-seat auditorium reconstruction, according to a phone survey conducted by TCAPS this spring.
By comparison, between 75 and 81 percent of voters supported or leaned toward supporting three elementary school reconstruction projects, bus replacements and technology upgrades that comprise the bulk of TCAPS' $35-million proposal, the survey showed.
Dell'Acqua said voters need to decide if they support TCAPS music programs before election day. There's a disconnect between the success of Central's performing arts program and the school's facilities, he said, and there's no telling how much more successful students could be with an improved auditorium.
Senior Marin Tack, an active member of Central's performing arts programs, agreed.
"The facilities take the talent level we have here down," Tack said. "We still learn and we still have fun, but it holds us back."