Arts center hailed as School District’s ‘hub of our core business’

Construction to be done by summer 2018

With silver shovels in hand, St. Charles Parish school officials along with family members of the late Rodney R. Lafon broke ground Tuesday for a $28.3 million performing arts center in Luling.

Rain did not delay the ceremony, which initiated construction on the 67,000 square-foot center being named in Lafon’s memory as the school system’s longtime superintendent.

Superintendent Felecia Gomez-Walker addressed a crowd that included Lafon’s family that the center would give the school system a competitive edge in its efforts to provide a comprehensive, well-rounded education for all students.

“The center will represent a hub for our core business – teaching and learning – clearly focused on arts education,” Gomez-Walker said.  “It will expand arts education to prepare students for jobs that are available in our region.

It will provide after school and summer programs that will build and showcase the talents of our students.  It will be available to adults in our community for opportunities to enrich their lives through community education offerings.”

The center also will support the School District’s commitment to learning for life, she said.

“Everyone from our youngest children to the senior citizens of our community will learn through performance opportunities, through being entertained and exposed to a variety of artistic experiences, and through being a citizen of a community who values the arts as part of its rich culture,” Gomez-Walker said.  “It will represent a passion for the arts – the same passion that was demonstrated by the facility’s namesake.”

Standing alongside the floor plan of the planned building, John Rome, the system’s executive director of physical plant services, said the project’s anticipated completion date is late spring – early summer of 2018.

The two-tiered, 1,300-plus seat structure will include “all of the professional accompaniments that will render the facility state of the art and will give the district the capability to host performances of the highest standards in the industry,” Rome said. A dance studio, black box for practice and intimate performances, dressing rooms, stage-prop-costume storage and construction areas, a box office, concessions stands, feature walls and display spaces will all be among the center’s amenities.

Additionally, it will include an educational wing featuring visual, vocal and instrumental arts classrooms with associated practice rooms a TV production suite, as well as lighting and sound classrooms.

Rome introduced the project’s design and construction team as “children of St. Charles Parish Public Schools.”

Murray Architects is providing the architectural design, HMS Architects is conducting inspection services, Lamar Contractors will build the facility, and Andy Mire will do the internal project management and inspections.

Rome said efforts to build the performing arts center go back to 2010, but it was the 2015 bond issue referendum that got voter support to include it in the school system’s safety and security package for all facilities.

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