The Festus School District (FSD) in Festus, Missouri, established in 1949, is a prominent educational institution comprised of four schools: Festus Elementary, Festus Intermediate, Festus Middle School, and Festus High School. In 2017, McClure Engineering collaborated with Archimages to design a new addition to Festus High School. The purpose of this project was to create a 14,000 sq. ft., two-story addition to accommodate the band and choral departments, which opened in 2019. This addition served as the foundation for the construction of the Performing Arts Center, a state-of-the-art facility that opened in 2022.
The vision behind the Performing Arts Center was to establish a prominent and accessible focal point on the FSD campus, ensuring convenience, safety, and ease of access for students, staff, and the public. The center was designed with versatility in mind, capable of hosting various events ranging from small orchestras to large-scale theatrical productions. It aimed to serve as both a venue for community gatherings and a cutting-edge teaching environment.
Mechanical, Electrical, Plumbing, Fire Protection
The expansion primarily focused on a 750-person auditorium and stage, as well as supporting spaces such as a lobby, offices, black box rehearsal area, costume shop areas, green room, and scene shop. The plumbing scope was straightforward, consisting of standard fixtures like sinks, lavatories, and bathrooms, including men’s, women’s, and unisex options. The fire protection system extended the existing wet pipe sprinkler system, without the need for a fire pump or standpipes due to the building’s height.
On the HVAC side, the project involved the use of rooftop units (RTUs), with a total of six units serving different areas.
Three of those six units serviced the auditorium, with one of those three units serving the stage, and the other two serving the seating areas. (The smaller one is used primarily for daily use and the larger one for bigger events.) The auditorium units employed a perforated duct system for slow-moving air to provide comfortable ventilation while maintaining acoustic requirements. Additionally, a pair of small humidifiers were installed in a piano storage room, and single zone air handling units (AHUs) and variable air volume (VAV) units were used for different spaces.
The other three RTUs serve the remainder of the building with one RTU serving the main lobby and second floor, one serving the east support spaces, and one serving the scene shop.
The project had considerations for energy efficiency and environmental impact as well. Due to budget constraints, RTUs were chosen for their low initial cost, and efforts were made to zone the units intelligently and match their operation to the building’s occupancy needs. Acoustic concerns were also addressed, considering the placement and noise potential of rooftop equipment in relation to the high ceilings of the auditorium.
The controls on the unit were divided into two categories: contractor-provided controls and factory-provided controls. The factory controls specifically managed the refrigerant and safety circuits of the RTUs. Additional contractor-provided controls were implemented on the RTUs and throughout the expansion to enable intelligent system controls, with the goal of reducing energy consumption.
Our lighting scope for this project encompassed the comprehensive design and construction administration of the lighting systems for the entire performing arts center including controls, architectural, and performance lighting. The lighting systems are controlled by two distinct lighting control systems: one focused on performance areas and architectural aesthetics, and the other aimed at cost-effective illumination for general building spaces.
To balance costs, we streamlined lighting in the school and pre-function areas while channeling investments into the performance spaces. This approach ensured that public-facing areas featured higher-grade lighting products, providing a visually impressive experience. Meanwhile, behind-the-scenes areas saw a more conservative choice of lighting products.
For the lobby, we introduced color-changing lighting in key areas such as the concession stand and doorways leading into the performance hall. These lights were interconnected with the performance lighting control system, allowing them to adapt to the themes of various events. This feature also enabled us to signal the intermission’s end or the imminent commencement of a show by blinking the lights in the lobby and pre-function areas.
In addition to indoor lighting, we designed and implemented the exterior lighting. This included illuminating the building’s facade to create an inviting ambiance, lighting up the parking lot, and installing lit bollards along walkways, staircases, and entry points. Wall packs were used for egress and safety.
One notable project challenge arose from the dark color palette chosen for the finishes, predominantly featuring black and gold. These dark finishes absorbed light, making it difficult to achieve the required lighting levels. Special attention and adjustments were necessary, particularly for areas like the concession stand with a black tile wall. The project’s non-standard finishes, which included dark wood ceilings and textured or graphical walls, demanded more in-depth analysis and redesigning of our lighting solutions than the typical industry standards.
Due to the unique challenges posed by the finishes and the need to balance performance and budget, the project’s timeline extended beyond initial expectations. Despite the complexities, we successfully delivered a lighting design that beautifully complements the architectural aesthetics and supports the dynamic performance lighting requirements of the venue.
Key design considerations for the 750-seat proscenium arch theater included meticulous planning of seating arrangements, sight lines, acoustical performance, and lighting controls. The stage sound systems and lighting offer maximum flexibility for controlling diverse concerts or theatrical productions, supported by above-ceiling catwalks for easy rigging system access. Notably, the orchestra pit is located beside the stage rather than below it. Additional facilities include dressing and green rooms, a concession stand, a wardrobe room, a prop production area, and a rehearsal room. The center also features a community room, multiple mounted monitors, public restrooms, backstage facilities for performers, and an elevator.
Overall, the Performing Arts Center stands as a remarkable addition to Festus High School, providing a premier venue for artistic and cultural experiences while meeting the evolving needs of the school and its community.