Traverse City Record-Eagle


November 1, 2012

Forum: Central High's antiquated auditorium

For five decades, people have sat in Central High School's auditorium anticipating a great performance when they're hit with that strange odor akin to what emanates from a box that has sat untouched in your attic since grandma's prom.

This odor arises from the cracked, germ-infested seat cushions, the stained curtains' weight bags, and the carpet that would gross out a Hazmat team. These surfaces are encrusted with the hard work of 50 years of student performances.

"I feel like I'm in the ghetto," orchestra director Ellen Boyer said of Central's auditorium. "I'm just embarrassed by the way it looks, it's inadequate. It definitely has to be a fire hazard."

On behalf of all students of our district, please vote "yes" on the millage. While there are many districtwide upgrades, I speak here of Central's auditorium, which is part of the upgrade.

Our lead custodian, Scott Markle, says setting up and tearing down the facility is so dysfunctional that it would be cheaper just to start over.

"A whole new auditorium would save a lot more money and time," Markle said. "There are sandbags that hold the screen backdrop. It looks like something off of Gilligan's Island." Upgrading our auditorium requires more than just paint, new cushions and some track lighting.

"The sound echoes throughout the auditorium, ruining the quality of the hard work we put into perfecting our music," orchestra student Luke Stenke said.

Seating is like a mosh pit. Parents are squished in closer than an airplane, and seated with a view from nearly floor level. The seats — many without springs — are orange from the second-to-the-last time the color was cool.

"The seats came from the old theater, so they're pretty bad and worn out," Markle said. "It's really the age of the building that makes it hard to maintain."

The upgrade would not only replace the antiqued seats but also expand our capacity.

Because seating is limited to just 550 seats and production expenses are so high, our choir department barely breaks even.

"For each musical we spend roughly $10,000 for copyright, $7,000 to rent lights, and then there are costumes and set pieces," choir director Tami Grove said. "We also pay for sound and stage managers, which cost about $3,000, so we barely meet costs."

Grove added that the choir department pays for most of our auditorium's fixes. And because the facility is so inadequate, both choir and orchestra pay fees to local organizations for venue space so students gain performance experience.

"An auditorium that actually functions means we wouldn't have to pay some of these expenses and we could generate more revenues for choir," Grove said.

Principal Rick Vandermolen said the upgrade is important because our students need a class "A" facility in which to perform. "The venue is limiting to our students' ability," he said. "Our students are amazing and deserve the best."

Your "yes" vote will make a big difference.

About the author: Autumn Hilden is a senior at Central High and a reporter and staff photographer on the Black & Gold, Traverse City Central High Schools' student newspaper.

About the forum: The forum is a periodic column of opinion written by Record-Eagle readers in their areas of interest or expertise. Submissions of 500 words or less may be made by emailing Please include biographical information and a photo.

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