The new Rock Ridge school: Will its performing arts center seat enough?

VIRGINIA — For nearly 100 years, the beautiful school auditoriums across the Range have served the rich music tradition here. As the plans for the new, combined high school uniting the students of Eveleth, Gilbert and Virginia have become available to the public, an area of concern for the music and arts community has been the decrease in seating size of the performing arts center. Originally, the proposed number of seats was between 1,000 and 1,500. That number now has been reduced to 750 seats.

To put this in perspective, the Virginia Goodman Auditorium holds 1,400. The Eveleth Boardman Auditorium holds 650 and the Gilbert Auditorium holds 550. In less than three years, we will be combining these three communities with all events taking place in the new auditorium seating only 750. For many school and community events, this will not be adequate.

Many students, parents and other community members are not aware of this change. There are a number of events that will be adversely affected because of reduction in size. These include:

• band, choir and orchestra concerts, grades 7 through 12,

• any combined concerts by the music groups named above,

• Arrowhead Concert Association (membership is currently 1,100),

• Downtown Dance Academy (usually 1,000 audience members),

• visiting groups such as the Concordia Choir, and

• possible future performances by groups that would require seating of more than 750.

We look forward to the new Rock Ridge High School being a fantastic place for our area youth to be educated and exposed to 21st century experiences available to them. Rock Ridge High School will also be a gathering place for many school and non-school events involving large numbers of community attendees. The new performing arts center needs to be large enough for events that require seating for at least 1,000 people (events that can only be held one night). Without making this venue large enough, there will be no facility to serve the entire East Range community.

We have been 100 percent in support of the new combined school uniting the students of Eveleth, Gilbert and Virginia. As long-time residents of the area, we are extremely excited to see our communities come together for this historic collaboration that will be a positive force for our students and residents for countless years and long after we are gone.

Barbara Baldrica lives in Virginia, MN. She is the president of the Arrowhead Concert Association and an accompanist for the Virginia High School choirs. Joyce Bloomquist lives in Virginia, MN. She is a board member of the Arrowhead Concert Association and a volunteer with the EGV Collaboration.

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