A state-of-the art building has made an appearance along Centurion Way next to the entrance of Saugus High School.
Dubbed “The Forum,” the 19,000-square-foot, 468-seat performing arts center is expected to open to students, staff and the community by April 2018.
“We’ve waited for this, we’ve put our hearts and souls into it,” Saugus High School Drama Teacher Gina Painter said. “The fact that the project is going through and it’s happening and we get to perform on that stage, we’re all just so over the moon about it.”
Nine years ago, the Hart District announced its plans to build a performing arts center on the Saugus High School campus with the passage of Measure SA, a $300 million school facilities bond.
As a priority project, the performing arts center is being fully funded through Measure SA.
“The total project is $18.3 million and that budget is broken into two pieces, there is a hard cost and a soft cost,” said Mike Otavka, director of facilities, planning and construction for the Hart District.
Hard costs, relating to construction of the building, total $13.5 million and soft costs, which include items like fees and inspections, total $4.8 million, according to Otavka.
Former Saugus High School Principal bill Bolde and his staff began the planning process for the performing arts center in 2011. They designed the building in a “Centurion theme” with plans that were artistic in nature and gave a nod to school’s Roman characteristics.
“There are a lot of people that have been looking forward to this day and in this moment when we can open this,” said Bolde, who is retiring from his post as principal this summer. “This is really a point of pride not just for the students and staff of Saugus High School, but the thousands of people that drive by Bouquet Canyon every single day. They look over here and see this is something special.”
Currently at about 60 percent complete, The Forum is beginning to look like a traditional performing arts center with a large performance stage, rows of cement for seat, catwalks for lights and rigging, spaces for drama rooms and a large lobby and ticketing area.
“What sets this building apart is the architectural design of it… We have not done a building like this before,” said Bryan Aylor, project manager with TELACU Construction Management. “I think this will become a focal point of the school.”
Once complete, The Forum will not be a square box, like most performing arts centers throughout the state; instead, it will include curved walls, a glass entryway, a fly room for set rigging and LED lighting throughout.
The building’s first row of seats can also be removed to create an orchestra pit and the center’s drama room can also double as a black box theater.
“The technology and the state-of-the-art theater we are about to put these kids into changes the game completely,” Painter said. “We all have to step up now. I have to step up my directing game, and the kids have to fill up that room with their voices and with their performance.”
Painter said the new facility will better fit the expanding theater program at Saugus High School and will bring the school’s productions to a professional level.
“I think that bringing our program now to a professional theater is an amazing opportunity for our students,” she said.
The space will also offer performance opportunities for students in choir, marching band, jazz band and dance. It also will include a place for students in woodshop to build props and scenes for the stage.
“When we have the space, when we have the room and when we have the budget for it, we can turn out some great facilities for our kids to be safe on and learn on and have access to everything they need,” Hart District Governing Board President Joe Messina said.
Incoming Saugus High School Principal Vince Ferry said The Forum will also act as a place to recognize the rich history of Saugus High School performing arts and welcome to community to the high school’s campus.
“I know Mr. Bolde has worked hard at making this a community theater and I am going to carry on that vision,” Ferry said. “I’m excited about it and the stage itself and the many great performances and seeing the talent flourish.”
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