Bowlus looks forward

The director of the Bowlus Fine Arts Center outlined plans for the 60th anniversary in September. He also laid out a list of possible future improvement projects — both needs and wants, from maintenance for walls and roofs to eventually replacing asbestos tile floors, new front doors and auditorium seating.



June 17, 2024 - 2:04 PM

Director Dan Kays said he would like to eventually install glass front doors at the Bowlus Fine Arts Center. Register file photo

As the Bowlus Fine Arts Center prepares to celebrate its 60th birthday this fall, director Dan Kays is looking even further into the future. 

At a meeting with USD 257 board members last week, Kays presented his budget for next year along with a list of capital improvement projects.

A 60th anniversary gala is planned for Sept. 14 and will include three levels of support and celebration. The night starts with an exclusive three-course dinner featuring music and a silent auction. Seats will be limited, with only about 25 or so available to the public, Kays said. Special guests include members of the Bowlus and Creitz families, for whom the center and its recital hall are named, respectively.

The highlight of the night is a concert featuring an ABBA tribute band with tributes to Adele and the BeeGees. 

After a silent auction wraps up, a live auction will highlight a few large prizes such as trips. 

Kays hopes to sell about 545 tickets for the various gala events, and bring in about $15,000 through fundraising. 

Last year’s ticket sales surpassed expectations, bringing in $47,267, or about $2,000 more than Kays had budgeted. With the gala, he expects all ticket sales to come in at about $58,177. 

The regular season will mirror those in previous years with a series of family events, music events, recitals and the Sleeper Family Trust Speaker Series.

Corporate sponsorships also have increased. Although the budget calls for raising $51,500 from company sponsorships, Kays expects the final number to be closer to $70,000.

Overall, Kays set a budget of $443,592 for projects and events. The operations budget is $548,220.

The school district, city and county contribute part of their mill levies to the Bowlus. That amounts to $172,219 from the county; $66,683 from USD 257; and $35,992 from the city. Funds also come from various trusts and donations, investments and ticket sales. 

SEVERAL capital improvement projects are expected in the next year, including one that was pushed back from this year. The operations budget includes $73,500 for improvement projects. That includes $6,000 in carryover from this past year to connect a new sewage lift pump station to an emergency generator.

• A section of crumbling wall on the west side of the building needs about $4,000 in repairs, but eventually, the entire building could use tuck pointing, washing and sealing. Kays expects that to come at a cost of about $25,000 per side. The east side won’t need it because of a remodel project a few years ago. Kays said it’s been several years since the building has been tuck-pointed. 

• The remodel on the east side should get window tinting on the upper portion. The floor-to-ceiling windows allow so much sunlight that the entrance can get quite warm, Kays said. He anticipates a cost of about $3,500.

• Another project will switch HVAC controls to a more modern system at a cost of $60,000. The school district, which oversees the Bowlus, made a similar switch recently. 

Also under operations, Kays budgeted for a 3% cost-of-living salary increase for employees and an additional 1% merit increase.

KAYS offered a more detailed list of future projects for school board members to consider in the coming years. Some are projects he expects the building will need in the next five or so years. Others are “wants” that will better prepare the building for the future.

On the list:

• Replacing part of the roof. Some sections have been replaced, but one roof has not been replaced since 1987.

• New flooring and asbestos removal. Most of the original tile floor contains asbestos. Some sections were replaced through various remodel projects over the years. But in many parts of the building, the tile is showing its age with curled corners and areas of deterioration. Staff are careful when cleaning the floors and many sections are covered by rugs to hide the damage. Kays would like to replace tile in the lobby with a high-quality material but use more basic flooring throughout the rest of the building at a projected cost of $170,000. 

• Upgraded theatre seating with wider seats and material that allows for food and drink inside the auditorium, at a projected cost of about $500 per seat or $371,000 total. The project would slightly reduce capacity but maintain leg room. The original seats have been refurbished but this would replace them with seats that better fit industry standards, Kays said. 

• HVAC units. Some units have been replaced but others likely will need to be within five years.

• Front door replacement. Problems with the heavy original doors have been fixed but Kays would like to replace them with glass doors that allow passers-by to see into the lobby. 

• Other equipment: The Friends of the Bowlus pledged $14,000 to replace orchestra chairs. The lightboard will need to be replaced at some point at a cost up to $25,000. The soundboard also will need to be replaced eventually at a cost of up to $35,000.