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Pillager auditorium prepares for grand opening

Slated to seat just under 400 people, the CTC Center will celebrate its grand opening with a special invite-only event Oct. 12.

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The CTC Center -- the new auditorium at Pillager Public Schools -- is nearing completion and is the last construction piece of the district's 2019 referendum. Theresa Bourke / Brainerd Dispatch

PILLAGER — Almost two and a half years after a successful referendum vote, the new auditorium at Pillager Public Schools is nearing completion.

Slated to seat just under 400 people, the CTC Center will celebrate its grand opening with a special invite-only event Oct. 12 and the first paid public events the following weekend — concerts featuring Kat Perkins and Tonic Sol-fa. A public grand opening will take place at a later date.

“We’re excited to have our kids have their first events in there this year,” Superintendent Mike Malmberg said during an interview in September. “It’s been a long time coming for our students, and I think for our community, to have a facility like that.”

Until now, the only stage space the district had was a small decades-old stage in the elementary cafeteria, which was not big enough for an entire musical cast and meant tables and chairs had to be moved every time an event took place.

Now the new auditorium will not only be a permanent space for fine arts activities, it will also have dressing rooms and areas for set storage and costumes.

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The first school event in the space will likely be a band or choir concert in November or December, though Malmberg said he is not sure when district will get the approval past temporary occupancy, which is the case for the grand opening events.

“There are a couple other things to get done before we can use it on a daily basis for students,” he said.

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The new CTC Center at Pillager Public Schools includes an auditorium with just under 400 seats and is the result of the district's 2019 referendum. Theresa Bourke / Brainerd Dispatch

But once the auditorium is open for everyday use, the school’s new theater class will take up residence there, a course brought on by the construction of the facility.

“Since we had the facility, we thought, you know, let’s offer the class as an elective,” Malmberg said.

A video production class is also the result of the referendum — which put $8.5 million into building maintenance, classrooms and vocational space — as are robotics and the reintroduction of agricultural sciences. The ProStart kitchen got an upgrade to commercial standards for culinary students, and the repurposed bus garage means more space for woods and metals classes.

Malmberg attributes much of the referendum’s success to the focus on vocational programs, after voters who rejected a 2017 vote said they would support future plans that included money for vocational classes like woods, metals and culinary arts.

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The video production room has cameras that are wired to both the gymnasium and the new auditorium so that students are able to fine tune their skills by capturing sporting activities and events at the CTC Center.

“So it gives those kids that experience of, is that something that they would like to get into, that world of journalism or video?” Malmberg said, noting those events can then be livestreamed for people who cannot attend in person.

School board meetings will likely take place in the auditorium upon completion as well, along with board meetings and other events for CTC, which purchased the naming rights for the facility.

“This is such an exciting opportunity for CTC to give back to one of the communities we serve,” CTC CEO and General Manager Kristi Westbrock said of the partnership in a news release last year. “We love the vision the school district has for the addition, and we’re pleased to be a part of it.”

The lobby of the CTC Center will be set up as an online learning lab for students with online classes. Right now, they use the high school commons area.

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The lobby of the new CTC Center at Pillager Public Schools will double as an online learning lab for students taking online classes. Theresa Bourke / Brainerd Dispatch

With the auditorium as the last result of the referendum falling into place, Malmberg is looking forward to the expanded opportunities all the new facilities mean for Pillager students.

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“Obviously you can’t have those opportunities without the facilities,” he said. “You can’t do those things if you don’t have the video lab or the robotics lab or the ProStart kitchen or the theater. You can’t have the wonderful opportunities for kids or the community. We would never have Tonic Sol-fa or Kat Perkins here if we didn’t have that facility.”

CTC Center events

Tickets are on sale for shows by Kat Perkins and Tonic Sol-fa.

Kat Perkins

When: 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 14.

Cost: $15 per ticket for the first four rows, and $11 for all other seats.

Tonic Sol-fa

When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 16.

Cost: $26 per ticket for the first four rows, and $21 for all other seats.

To purchase tickets, visit isd116.org/CTCcenter/ticket_ordering .


THERESA BOURKE may be reached at theresa.bourke@brainerddispatch.com or 218-855-5860. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/DispatchTheresa .

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