LOWER GWYNEDD — The Wissahickon School Board approved two forthcoming feasibility studies during Nov. 26’s meeting.
Breslin Ridyard Fadero Architects, an Allentown-based firm, will be commissioned by the district to study the prospects of a performing arts center at the site of the defunct middle school swimming pool facility.
Gerry Moore, director of building and grounds, presented the basic layout of the proposed center, described as a large, flexible space with a stage for student use.
“The space could be efficiently built and maintained,” Moore said. “It gives you the ability to have any type of performance or have a speaker.”
The center would have a seating capacity of 200 to 250, officials said.
“We’ll be hiring a structural engineer to make sure the trusses are capable of supporting the proposed lighting equipment,” Wade Coleman, business administrator, said.
Professionals will evaluate the costs associated with a center, officials said, though current estimates sit at $4 million.
“There are a lot of things we need to study before we know what can be done and what it will cost,” Coleman said.
“We’ll use that feasibility study to decide whether we still like the idea,” Superintendent Dr. James Crisfield said.
Board members noted other potential educational advantages to a center.
“The middle school doesn’t really have anywhere to have an assembly or grade-level meetings,” board Vice President Tracie Walsh said. “This would be great for that.”
Coleman presented other options for the space. A complete demolition, estimated at $1.1 million, and a full-scale auditorium, estimated at $9 million, were discussed.
“With regards to a traditional auditorium, we’re finding that costs are substantially more than what they were a few years ago,” Coleman said.
Officials agreed that the time has come to act.
“We thought letting the building sit there boarded up was an unacceptable option,” board President Joe Antonio said.
A second feasibility study for outdoor athletics facilities was adopted later in the meeting.
Proposed by D’Huy Engineering Inc., the study will determine the costs and benefits of upgrades to the synthetic turf field located on the high school campus.
James Cairnes, athletic director, highlighted the benefits of a turf addition, including increased use and activity, an enhanced sense of school pride and more and better opportunities for student-athletes.
“If we’re trying to promote an active, healthy lifestyle, this is one way to do it,” Cairnes said. “The existing field is overstretched. We’d have a better space for our teams, and we’d also have a better space for physical education.
“From a community standpoint, we’d also allow other organizations to utilize the space,” he said.
Injury prevention, as well as the facility’s durability, were mentioned as additional benefits to an expanded space.
“Traditional grass fields are easily ruined, regardless of drainage systems,” Crisfield said. “That one time you use the field when it’s wet, it’s done for the year. That’s when injuries go up.”
“It would maximize the opportunities we already have,” Cairnes said.