Auditorium construction postponed indefinitely

Jacki Petrow, Editor-in-Chief

Voters passed a bond in 2016 that provided funds for a variety of projects, including a new auditorium at Bellevue West. Bellevue West principal Kevin Rohlfs said that this is the last major project that they plan to start, although the construction has been postponed due to inflation.

“Our plan was to put a band room and a theater room on the end of the auditorium; that may be on hold a little bit,” Rohlfs said. “We were going to flatten out the floor and the old auditorium and make that into a larger practice room that may be on hold a little bit. We were looking at possibly taking the old band room and making that a black box theater.”

These optional add-ons may have initially seemed feasible, but Rohlfs said they seem less likely since costs have gone up. 

However, BPS Director of Technology Greg Boettger said that there are plans for an alternative. Even if these rooms aren’t built, the district wants to prepare for possible opportunities in the future.

“The back wall of the auditorium would be built in a way that it could be removed in the event that down the line, they wanted to add on to something,” Boettger said.

Boettger said that while there is about $12 million set aside for the project,  a recent bid came back for $16 million. 

According to Superintendent Dr. Jeff Rippe, up to this point, the bond money has been used to upgrade many parts of the schools, from air conditioning to security measures. A breakdown of costs found on the BPS bond website also shows purchases of other items, including technology, transportation, and roof and bleacher replacements.

“Lots of different projects [like] the Frank Kumor Center were purchased through bond dollars,” Rippe said. “And that’s where we obviously host some of our high school programs.”

Even with the uncertainty surrounding timing of the auditorium project, each administrator expressed complete confidence in the construction eventually moving ahead.

“I’m excited to see the project started,” Rohlfs said. “It’s going to be an incredibly messy project, because it’s going to affect our main entrance into the school. And so I’m kind of dreading the process, but we can look forward to the final product when it’s done.”

“The biggest project of all is the Bellevue West auditorium, which is in the works and will be done at some point,” Rippe said. “But that’s probably the largest dollar item of the whole bond projects.”