In 2003, the Rotary Club of Pacific Grove accepted the challenge of doing something meaningful for the 100th anniversary of Rotary International. The guidance was to “meet an unmet community need.”  Rather than subcontracting the effort out in the form of a “check,” the club decided to contribute funds and “sweat equity” and to involve as much of the community as possible.  After considering a number of options, the club decided on the renovation of the local middle school auditorium and converting it into a community performing arts center. This was a very ambitious project which would require lots of coordination and planning. The club was fortunate to have as members a general contractor, and electrical contractor, an architect, an interior designer and a project manager. This core team then reached out to the rest of the club and the community to assemble a crackerjack team of volunteers and specialized community crafts.

The target auditorium was an art deco creation of the late 1920’s which had hosted Ella Fitzgerald, Count Basie and other stars in the 1930’s to the 1950’s. The facility had fallen on hard times but it had “good bones” with terrific natural acoustics. It had recently played host to the Monterey Symphony while their regular venue was undergoing reconstruction and the Symphony’s members remarked on the quality of the acoustics but were discouraged by the general “shabbiness” of the interior.

The Club then met with the local school board and the superintendent (who happened to be a member of the Club) and hammered out a cooperative agreement. The Club would be granted full access to the auditorium for a 9 week period during the summer break but would have to have all work completed before the fall term began. The school board agreed to a designation of the finished facility as the “Performing Arts Center – Pacific Grove.”

In scoping the work, the Club’s project team decided to remove all 600 seats on the main floor and clean them and recover the seats and to then refinish the floor (a wonderful red pine wood floor). The entire auditorium would be repainted in attractive colors and faux columns installed along with period sconces to provide adjustable lighting during performances. The institutional large ceiling hung lights would be replaced with period alabaster dishes. The project budget would be $125,000 with an estimated cost of $90,000 and a community fundraising effort would be needed.

As the project start date drew near, the fundraising was ramped up and nearly 175 individual donations totaling nearly $22,000 were received. Each donor was promised a place on plaques to be mounted in the finished facility.  Rotarians in the club and outside the club contributed nearly $16,000 and other community charitable organizations donated a total of over $15,000. Since the total raised was less than required, a club member stepped forward with a $30,000 interest free loan to assure the project could successfully proceed.

Immediately after the school year ended, the Rotary team, assisted by many family members, swarmed over the facility. Since not all seats were the same dimensions owing to its original design, each seat had to be numbered for reassembly.  Each seat had four major pieces and were mounted to the floor by screws. Each piece was stacked in a pattern on the stage initially – think of a tinker toy or puzzle to appreciate the challenge.  A special lift was brought in to allow the new lights to be mounted on the 30 foot high ceilings. While the lift was in place, the ceiling tiles damaged by water leaks were repainted. Then the floor refinishers went to work – sanding and varnishing the beautiful wood. Each seat was then sent to a upholstery vendor for recovering in a variety of fabrics selected by our interior designer and architect. Then the faux columns were installed by our general contractor. The painting of the walls then proceeded in parallel with the seat refurbishment. Individual cast iron seat pieces were brought outside for power washing – imagine the grime built up over 70 years of use by high school and middle school students!!

Reinstallation of the seats was then begun requiring late nights and lots of interesting language as the puzzle was reassembled and bolted to the floor. But the team work and dedication of the club members really paid dividends. Even 80 year old members were enthusiastically involved and not just supervising.

Finally all was done and with a week to spare. A total of more than 2500 people hours were invested and the project finished with expenditures of about $85,000.  A great project – ahead of schedule and under budget – it helps to have a very talented team from a very motivated club.

In order to celebrate this great accomplishment, a black tie reception and Grand Opening was held – featuring local talent and an imported opera singer (who is a Rotarian in our club’s District 5130) – Sky Wild. Unfortunately, the weather was not cooperative (even the best project planner cannot control this variable) and a major storm resulted in a power outage that truncated the evening but the goal of creating a Performing Arts Center – Pacific Grove was accomplished and is being used to great effect by the community and the school district.

In a follow up Project, a monument sign was constructed in front of the Performing Arts Center – Pacific Grove which will announce events on a LED display and includes plaques for Rotary and the Pacific Grove Unified School District. In the interior of the facility, there are plaques mounted summarizing the effort by Rotary and listing the major donors.

In order to assure the PAC-PG would not be neglected and fall again into disrepair, a new Foundation was formed by several Rotarians to provide support for school based performing arts programs and to maintain and improve the PAC-PG. This foundation has held several events in the ensuing years and is well established. Rotary has a permanent seat on its Board of Directors.

The community has embraced this facility and as part of an overall physical plant rejuvenation bond effort passed by the voters, a music room was added to the rear of the PAC-PG which freed up space for more theatrical performances in the auditorium. The funds also provided new stage lighting and further enhancements to the sound system. New restrooms were constructed adjacent to the facility and the lobby was renovated.

Fully operational in mid 2009, the Performing Arts Center – Pacific Grove is an example of dedicated work effort, a vision, and involving the whole community as a team.