Civic committee discusses renovations

The Idaho Falls City Council will be reviewing ways to reduce the roughly $100,000 annual deficit created by operating the Civic Auditorium.

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An image of the renovated Idaho Falls Civic Center for the Performing Arts is starting to emerge.

Auditorium seats likely will be upholstered with a deep red fabric, and the auditorium’s floors will be covered with a dark burgundy, gold-flecked carpet.

Civic Auditorium Committee members said during a Wednesday meeting the carpet will resist stains and last several decades.

“It’ll look great with some Coca-Cola on it,” said interior designer Carol Johnson, who is assisting with auditorium color and material selection. “And you’ll get sick of it before the carpet wears out.”

Committee members will soon test paint samples in the auditorium’s interior. The final color palette likely will revolve around rich colors typically associated with the 1950s, when the Civic was built.

Committee members also discussed Wednesday a replacement for the auditorium’s symphony shell.

New carpet, upholstery, paint, and acoustic improvements all fall under phase 1 of Civic renovations, which also will include a new light-dimming system, other sound improvements and an electronic marquee near Holmes Avenue.

The committee is considering the purchase of a used symphony shell located in New York. With shipping and physical adjustments to fit the Civic, the shell would cost around $100,000.

That’s significantly less than the $280,000 reserved for a new shell in the $1.5 million phase 1 budget split equally between philanthropist William J. Maeck and the city of Idaho Falls.

“I’m just looking at any money we can save somewhere, because that allows us money to spend on other things,” Civic Manager Ed Morgan said.

Morgan raised the idea of installing an automatic mechanical pit if money is saved on the symphony shell. The current auditorium pit takes three hours and three people to move, Morgan said.

“We’ve had to raise that thing 16 times in a week,” he said.

The committee may look into using a single contractor for new seating and acoustic improvements in order to streamline project management. Members plan to bid painting and seat orders in January, begin work in July and conclude phase 1 by Sept. 30.

In following years, the committee is planning front-of-house and back stage improvements to the Civic. Possible improvements include repurposing of city-owned classrooms behind the stage and expansion of the building’s front.

Planning for additional renovation phases is stilted somewhat after voters on Nov. 8 rejected a $110 million bond initiative to remodel Skyline High School and rebuild Idaho Falls High School, which is connected to the Civic. District officials haven’t determined if they will try another bond initiative.

Funding for the phases also is uncertain.

Architect and Idaho Falls Historic Preservation Commission member Graham Whipple, who was present at Wednesday’s meeting, raised the idea of pursuing a National Register of Historic Places designation, which would open the facility to potential grant dollars.

To pursue designation, the committee would need to maintain historic, character-defining features of the Civic, such as the curved aluminum grille on the Civic’s facade, or the curved ceiling inside the lobby.

If early renovations are conducted with the building’s historic properties in mind, money could possibly be leveraged for further work, Whipple said.

“It would open all kinds of opportunities for grants,” he said. “There are communities around the country that would die to have an auditorium like this in their town.”

Reporter Kevin Trevellyan can be reached at 208-542-6762.