An architectural rendering of the proposed auditorium was provided to The Thunderbeat by Principal Kevin Rohlfs.
An architectural rendering of the proposed auditorium was provided to The Thunderbeat by Principal Kevin Rohlfs.
Ralph Gladbach

New auditorium is set to start construction this year

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The new auditorium, part of the 2016 bond issue, will start construction this year according to Principal Kevin Rohlfs. 

Rohlfs said that they plan to take the trees down before May, and the rest of the construction is supposed to start after the current senior classes’ graduation. The entire process is expected to take about eighteen months to complete.

During the construction of the auditorium, the loop for drop-off and pick-up will be closed off and used to hold construction supplies and materials, according to Rohlfs. Entrance through the main office may, at times, be unavailable throughout the construction.

“We’re working on trying to create a new flow for traffic,” Rohlfs said. “We won’t have, necessarily, the access in [the main office] so we could possibly be entering through the east end of the north gym or coming around to the side as our main entry.” 

Senior gifts that are displayed in the courtyard will be moved and stored during construction. “A suitable place will be found for them to be displayed after the auditorium is finished,” Rohlfs said in an email.

A bronze Thunderbird statue, a gift from the Class of 1996, sits in front of the main entrance to the school. The statue will be removed to make way for the new auditorium. (Andrew Callison)

Construction of the auditorium has been a long time coming. The Thunderbeat reported in the May 6, 2021 print issue that construction would start in June 2021, but that did not happen. 

Superintendent Jeff Rippe said that even though the auditorium was scheduled to be built sooner, COVID-19 and inflation of material costs interfered with the planning of the construction so all bids were rejected until now.

The March 4 school board meeting discussed two bids on the construction of the auditorium by two companies, Rogge General Contractors and Scheele-Kayton Construction. John Wise, Rogge GC’s lawyer, was present at this meeting and brought with a copy of a Nebraska state-statute 811161 and read it out to the board members. 

The statute states that “all purchases, leases, or contracts which by law are required to be based on competitive bids shall be made to the lowest responsible bidder, taking into consideration the best interests of the state.” While the board is required to take the lower bidder, which in this case is Rogge GC, the statute also states that they are required to pick on quality and timeliness as well.

Some concerns were brought up during the meeting with the timeliness of Rogge GC’s ability to complete the project and eventually the decision to go with Scheele-Kayton was unanimously voted for.

While Bellevue West already has an auditorium in the school, it’s quite smaller than the new one that’s planned to be built; only seating 425 people. 

“It’s gonna seat about 950 [people]…we’ll have a bigger, deeper stage so we’ll have more space,” Rohlfs said. This would include having an orchestra pit for future theater performances and concerts.

Rohlfs said the larger auditorium will be used for concerts and theater performances. Plans for the current one will have to wait until the district gets the next bond issue due to the costs but the plans include leveling the floor out so that it will be able to be used for ROTC practice, band and choir practice, and other school activities. 

 “It’ll just be more of a realistic, full auditorium than what we have right now,” Rohlfs said.

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