In Aug. 19 IssueBy Derek AaronTimes Journal Reporter
Nearly 26,000 people attended events ranging from book signings and concerts to pool parties and business meetings during the first year of operation for the Russell County Schools Auditorium/Natatorium Complex, according to Susan Melton, who is director of the facility.
These attendance figures generated more than $35,000 of profit that has gone back into the school system to help bring more educational opportunities to the auditorium.
Melton said she would like to see higher numbers, but said she understood that the current economic situation may have contributed to that figure.
"We didn't know what to expect, we didn't have a clue," she said of opening the building up to the public. "We wanted to start slow."
The 63,464 sq. foot building, which cost nearly $13 million to build and was built solely on state allocated funds, opened in May 2009 and has since been the home to some 260 events, with the first event being the 2009 National Day of Prayer event.
"We didn't expect to do the number of catering events we did, though," she said. "Catering was a huge boost."
She said Farm Bureau has rented space at the facility five times in the past year, giving them the distinction of business which used the facility the most.
Melton said the large range of folks who have held events in the building showed just how versatile the facility is.
"It is first for the students, but then it blossomed out," she said of interest in the building. "The only drawback to this building, of bringing in more events is that Russell County does not have overnight accommodations for 250, 300, 400 people. We just don't have that."
But being one of the few buildings of its kind in the state, Melton said that educators from all over Kentucky have visited the complex, be it for professional development or other ventures.
"Of course Governor Beshear was here last year, Kentucky Commissioner of Education Terry Holliday was here, and Rand Paul held his public forum here back in the early spring," she said of some of the more high profile visitors.
"Steve Wariner is the next thing, and the biggest thing," she said. The Nashville recording artist is presenting a concert entitled "An Evening with Grammy Award Winner Steve Wariner" on Saturday, Sept. 4 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are on sale now for $55 and can be bought at the auditorium Monday through Thursday.
Another activity slated to get underway on August 30 at the natatorium is the community swim program, she said.
Water aerobics will be held on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. for $3 per person while the community swim nights will be Monday through Thursday from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. for $3 per person. A family night event will be held each Wednesday night from 5:30 to 7:30 for $1 per person.
Then on Saturday, Oct. 16, legendary Country and Bluegrass Grammy award winner Ricky Skaggs is scheduled to be in concert at the auditorium. Melton said more information on Skaggs' appearance would be released when the deal is finalized in the coming weeks.
It is her hope that next year's schedule of events can be planned out and finalized much sooner than this year's events were.
"We're learning every day," she said. "I already see many things we could have done differently but it is a work in progress."
The auditorium seats 734 while the building houses 10 classrooms and exercise room and the natatorium pool, which ranges from 4 ft. to 12.6 ft. with both low and high diving boards.
Branscum Construction served as the Construction Manager for the facility while RBS Design Group was the architect for the building.
Branscum was recently recognized for the project, receiving the 2009 Building Construction $11-$15 Million AGC Build Kentucky Award from the Associated General Contractors of Kentucky.
To inquire about renting rooms in the facility, the pool or the auditorium, contact 270-866-6300 or 270-566-3586.