The Coast News Group
Above: LPA's design rendering for the new Sage Creek High School performing arts center. It was one of three designs presented to the CUSD Board on March 19. Courtesy image

CUSD sets goals for facility improvements, new theater

CARLSBAD — The CUSD Board of Trustees set priorities for upgrading facilities, safety, and campus access for disabled students as well as reviewed proposed designs for Sage Creek High School’s new performing arts center at its Wednesday night meeting.

The Board reviewed the district’s new facilities master plan, which sets construction priorities at the various campuses and offices for the next five years.

The priority projects outlined will cost the district an estimated total of over $60 million. So far the district has about $44 million in available capital improvement funds, and staff anticipates it will be able to obtain the remainder of the funds over the 5-year period.

Both Board members and district staff are aware of several district buildings that do not meet current ADA (Americans with Disabilities Act) regulations and are difficult to access for disabled students, teachers, and campus visitors.

Carlsbad High School was designated to receive a $1.2 million redesigned administration building so that people in wheelchairs would not have to leave campus to access the front of the building.

The Cultural Arts Center was also assigned an interior upgrade in the coming years for increased ADA access and better building space for the theater’s scenery and props.

Enhanced safety features, including better fencing, security systems, and designated campus entry points, are planned for numerous campuses as well.

The Board also viewed three architecture firms’ proposed designs for Sage Creek High School’s new performing arts center, which will be built at the campus’s main entrance.

All of the designs incorporated the Board’s requests for a 250- to 350-seat main theater, black box theater, orchestra pit, sustainable construction and amenities, as well as a $9 million budget.

Rachlin's design for the new performing arts center. Courtesy image
Rachlin’s design for the new performing arts center. Courtesy image

The first proposal, from Rachlin Partners, incorporated a modern looking, rounded metal facade that resembled the Staples Center in Los Angeles. Announcements for performances and school activities could be projected onto the front of the building.

The two-story space included a theater with 340 seats, an orchestra pit that could be converted for extra seats or stage space, interlacing catwalks, and doors in the back of the stage for projections to shine through onto a screen or scenery.

“We thought you need some drama in a performing arts center,” said Michael Rachlin, a partner at the firm.

The next design, from Sillman Wright Architects, consisted of a front-facing lobby housed by two-story windows with a metal roof that wrapped around the side walls and an adjacent metal ticket booth.

With a design created to inspire and teach, Larry Sillman said, “Our building responds to the 21st century educational goals.”

The rendering incorporated a sculpture plaza for students to gather and a theater space with 345 seats and a convertible orchestra pit.

Sillman Wright Architects' design was complimented by Board members for its lobby design. Courtesy image
Sillman Wright Architects’ design was complimented by Board members for its lobby design. Courtesy image

The last design for the center focused on constructing a building that would blend well with the rest of Sage Creek High School’s campus with sandy bricks and a metal roof.

LPA’s proposal featured a roof that would filter rainwater to treatment in a landscaped area below.

It also included a 300-seat theater with another orchestra pit that could make way for additional stage space.

Kevin Leslie, the building’s designer, said the team strived to “design a building that creates a gateway to the campus, a new front door.”

The Board members complimented Rachlin’s design for it’s modern, professional, and dramatic look and the theater’s acoustic features, but expressed concern that it would stick out from the rest of the campus.

They voiced favor for Sillman Wright Architects’ lobby layout, but were not thrilled with the ticket booth being front and center to the campus entrance.

They admired LPA’s focus on sustainable design and how it fit with the rest of the school’s design, but acknowledged that it had the fewest amount of theater seats compared to the other proposals.

The Board will select a firm at a later meeting once they have the chance to ask follow up questions about the designs.