The St. Charles Parish School Board accepted a $28.3 million bid for the third phase of construction of the Rodney R. Lafon Performing Arts Center, with Lamar Contractors LLC taking on the project.
School Board member Alex Suffrin, District 8, said plans are to begin construction in July with projected completion in late spring of 2018, around May.
The center is to be built in Luling next to the community center and St. Charles Parish Sheriff’s Office complex on Judge Edward Dufresne Parkway.
The School Board received bids from six contractors in mid-May. The Performing Arts Center is an approved project of the 2015 bond issue.
The 67,000 square-foot facility will include 1,300 seats, matching the combined capacity of the Hahnville and Destrehan high school auditoriums.
The performing arts center will also include two stories of classroom space to accommodate art and theater instruction.Suffrin said the board believes the state-of-the-art facility will expand and enrich performing arts in the school system while enhancing performances and educational opportunities for students and community members.
The center will be used for school, community and professional performances, as well as educational opportunities.
In addition to a professional performance theater, the Performing Arts Center will include areas to accommodate special interests such as theater, music, dance and set design.
“I have always believed that there is a close correlation between the arts and high academic achievement, and I think there is data that supports this view,” Suffrin said. “This facility will serve to further reinforce the core business of teaching and learning in our A-rated district.”
Fellow Board members Sonny Savoie and Arthur Aucoin concurred.
“I think it will be a boon to the cultural aspects of our community, where we are able to bring a whole range of cultural events to entertain our constituents, as well as expose our children to a first class facility on a professional level,” Savoie said. “We were very pleased to see the quality of bidders as well as the closeness of the bids. The architect was complimented on the design and how well and clean the drawings were for the bid specs. I can’t wait for the opening.”
Added Aucoin, “This performing arts center will be a proud venue to showcase our talented students in the district. We hope to entertain outside performances so we are able to give back to our stakeholders in this district. We were pleased that the low bid was under budget. It is also a contractor who has done work in the district before.”
It is named for Lafon, the former superintendent of the St. Charles Parish school system. Lafon passed away in 2014 at the age of 63. The longtime schools leader oversaw the creation of the parish’s Arts Awareness Festival and was known to be passionate about music and arts education.