News Column

RIVERSIDE: $8.7 million renovation planned for Ramona High theater

August 17, 2014

By Dayna Straehley, The Press-Enterprise, Riverside, Calif.



Aug. 17--The seats of the Ramona High School auditorium are worn and mismatched. The paint is peeling and the orchestra pit can't be used the way it was designed.

Those problems and others will be fixed when the theater is renovated next year.

The Riverside Unified School District board will vote this fall on plans to remodel the theater, which was part of the Ramona campus built in 1956.

The $8.7 million renovation will be the final project funded by Measure B, a school facilities bond voters approved in 2001. A Career Technical Education Facilities Funding Program grant will pay $579,000 of the project.

Once the school board approves the project, construction is scheduled to begin in June 2015.

The 1,100-seat theater is one of the largest venues in Riverside and is used by community groups, including the Riverside Children's Theater. It is also home to the school district's arts magnet program, attracting students from throughout Riverside who are interested in performing arts and theater technology, such as lighting, sound systems, scenic design and set construction.

Ramona High junior Aaron Broadfoot ran the stage lighting and senior Alec Carter controlled the sound system for a dress rehearsal of a performance by Ballet Folklorico de Riverside this summer.

Broadfoot said the new planned system would make it possible to light performers or the stage in different ways. But the work won't be done until he graduates, he said.

Knowing how to use more advanced lighting and sound systems would make it easier for graduates to get jobs in technical theater, Carter said.

A new catwalk, motorized rigging, air conditioning system, fire alarm and sprinkler system, new interiors, remodeled restrooms, a newly designed ticket booth, concession stand, acoustical wall and ceiling treatments are also in the plans by architect Dave Eaves of the firm LPA.

Portable risers in the choir room will allow for flexible use.

The orchestra pit was originally designed for a hydraulic lift that was never installed, probably because of budget issues, said Hayley Calhoun, Riverside Unified's director of planning and development. The pit was covered with plywood and carpet at floor level. The new plans call for modular pit fillers that can be moved manually and will allow the orchestra pit to be used as designed, district spokeswoman Jacquie Paul said.

The stage will also be strengthened so a large, refurbished pipe organ can be moved across it. Broadfoot said the last time the school moved that organ, which is locked up backstage and on wheels, they had to put boards over the stage floor.

Theater classrooms will also get more storage space for costumes and instruments. A folding wall is to be added to the existing drama room to create separate dressing rooms for boys and girls. Plans also call for adding make-up stations.

On the south side of the theater next to the parking lot facing Magnolia Avenue, plans call for a "gallery walk" with ramps providing handicapped-accessible access to the lowest part of the theater and the stage. The design includes a glass wall with planters, and the walkway will be a place to display students' artwork.

Contact the writer: 951-368-9455 or dstraehley@pe.com

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(c)2014 The Press-Enterprise (Riverside, Calif.)

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Source: Press-Enterprise (Riverside, CA)


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