NEWARK – When Luke Baus proudly surveyed the interior of Newark Catholic’s new $ 2.6 million Performing Arts and Innovation Center, he smiled.
The facility is well under the roof and is expected to be completed in late spring, hopefully in time for completion. The NC alumnus from 1996 played an important role as the architect for the project. Just like the school shaped his career.
“I love the curves and the way they get you on campus,” said Baus last week during a tour of the auditorium. “You pull into the parking lot and it’s a nice storefront. Newark Catholic has always been known for its sports department, but there’s also a lot of talent here in the performing arts. And it’s difficult for small schools to compete for talent.”
Baus owns Project Architecture and NC piqued his interest in becoming an architect. “Tom Cash, the industrial arts teacher, piqued my interest and helped me get involved in the field and start my own company,” he said.
Columbus-based Corna Kokosing Construction Company completes the project. The auditorium is connected to the fitness studio and includes a 500-seat auditorium with the latest technology, lighting, sound and air conditioning, a new lobby entrance to the building, a new ADA-compliant toilet accessible from the lobby, storage space and a Changing room for visitors.
The extension will be a new home for theatrical performances and space for STEM and robotics programs. It will provide sufficient and adequate space for school masses and other faith-based gatherings, graduation ceremonies, school assemblies, guest speakers, honorary events, athletic ceremonies, and many other activities.
Campus Minister Chris Grieb is overjoyed that trade fairs can now be held there instead of in the gym. “We can now create the atmosphere we need for the fair,” he said. “Mass is a celebration, and this is a celebration for our school and community. Now we don’t have to set things up and sit in the stands. It’s definitely great to have for everyone involved.”
Laura Lewis, a 1978 Newark Catholic graduate and chair of the INSPIRE fundraiser, was impressed with how well the project stuck to its schedule despite managing the pandemic.
“We laid the foundation stone in September and the goal is to get a degree here,” she said. “It’s not just a couple of classrooms. As an alum, it’s a nice addition to school. We’ll be able to promote so many more great things our kids are doing.”
“Graduating here is a lofty goal, but they have left their mark so far,” said Beth Hill, director of NC, of Corna Kokosing. “You are on time, on budget and you really did it. You worked really well with Jeff Dodson, our site manager.”
Hill said the construction will cause 10 parking spaces to be lost, but will not affect the sports facilities. “There will also be 30 to 40 parking spaces in front of the house,” she said.
The estimated cost of construction is $ 2.4 million, including $ 200,000 for sustainability, making the total project $ 2.6 million. There was a major gift of $ 500,000 and numerous generous private donations from the community.
School Board President Dave Stalling acknowledged the school is known for the success of its sports programs. “We want to give the students one more reason to come here,” he said in March 2019 when the plans for the facility were first announced. “The drama and music bring so many children into it. There’s a lot of work behind the scenes. It’s not just about singing and dancing.”
“We’re the only school in Licking County with no auditorium or stage presence,” added Stalling. He found that over 100 elementary and middle school students are also involved in the drama.
Hill said Newark Catholic seeks a balance of education in what it does. “We want them (sports and arts) to emphasize each other,” she said. “We want our actors to be athletes and athletes to be actors.”
Dennis Moore has been a NCs music and theater teacher for 13 years and the facility has light at the end of the tunnel. “We went to seven different locations for the theater department,” Moore said last March. “We couldn’t build the set we wanted to build because space was limited. Other schools had the luxury of building sets over three or four months. We only had three or four days.”
Although the facility was previously absent, NC’s acting department is well established. “It’s amazing how many kids we’ve drawn into this career experience,” said Moore. “Colleges are looking for students who are rounder.”
Families will be able to bring in people who have never been to school, noted Moore. “We needed a place called home,” he said.
Twitter: @ noz75