The Jason D. Williams concert held Friday night is one example of the type of show the Sweetwater Municipal Auditorium Board of Directors hopes to host more of as they plan another phase of renovations and improvements to the auditorium.
It all began in the late 1970s when Sweetwater High School drama instructor, Clay Freeman, started a successful summer acting troupe and a group of people put their heads together to raise funds to save the aging building. Since then, the board and citizens who enjoy having the auditorium serve as a vibrant spot for community activity have raised approximately $300,000 for improvements.
Board member Larry Ludlum said funds have been raised over the years through “generous individual donations, along with some funding from grants and matching grants.” Fundraising for the current projects in the works began in 2008.
The board is now making plans to double the capacity of the restrooms, both downstairs and upstairs, and to make the downstairs restrooms handicapped accessible. Board member Richard Smola pointed out this will help with the long lines that accumulate outside the restrooms during intermissions.
In addition, the wooden doors for stage access and to the balcony fire escape have been replaced with sturdier steel doors. There is also work being done to replace the tower windows, which were broken by winds and storms. Smola said the area has been cleaned and boarded up to prevent birds from nesting in the tower, and then decorative and sturdier glass windows will be put in. They also plan to put lighting in the towers to be used when events are taking place at the auditorium.
More clean-up is also planned for the front exterior of the building. Several months ago the railings out front were re-painted.
These improvements are a continuation of what began in the early 1980s with re-painting of the inside and re-carpeting of the lobby, along with general clean-up. One of the largest improvements was done in 2003 with the replacement of the downstairs seating. The roof was then replaced in 2006.
There have also been updates made to improve sound and lighting for shows.
As more funds are raised, the auditorium board of directors also hopes to replace the balcony seating, add additional heating and air conditioning capacity, replace the front doors, renovate the inside doors from the lobby to the seating area, replace the stage curtains and renovate the dressing rooms.
Potential donors may send donations to P.O. Box 584 in Sweetwater or contact one of the board members: Kathy Rainey, Jan Smith, Trey Aiken, John Spaulding, Leah Andrews, Richard Smola or Larry Ludlum.