Demolition of old Benson High School auditorium underway
BENSON -- Bricks walls were crashing down and dust was floating up as crews demolished the Benson High School auditorium and band room this week.
Built in 1928, the building is being razed to make way for construction of a new 650-seat performing arts auditorium that will be connected to the high school.
“It’s bittersweet," said Superintendent Dennis Laumeyer, during an interview Wednesday as crews from Breitbach Construction worked to bring down the final walls of the old auditorium.
"There’s been wonderful activities that have happened here. Wonderful performances, musical and theater," he said.
The cost to maintain the crumbling facility, however, became unmanageable for the district, which determined it would be better to raze the old structure and build new.
The new auditorium and band room is part of a $26.3 million construction project the district is undertaking after winning the approval of voters in a special referendum last year.
Along with building a new auditorium, the project includes construction of new classrooms at the high school/middle school and construction of a new cafeteria/activity center and preschool center at the elementary school. A project to convert the indoor swimming pool at the high school/middle school into a gym has already been completed.
Laumeyer said the demolition of the auditorium has been going as planned, despite the challenges of preserving shared walls with part of the structure that is remaining.
Original stonework that hung on the exterior of the auditorium was saved and will be integrated into the design of the new auditorium.
"We’re very excited about all the history that’s happened in that auditorium and we don’t want to lose all that.,” Laumeyer said. “There’s some beautiful, wonderful stonework that was on the exterior of the auditorium and we were able to salvage that, and it will be incorporated into our new auditorium, so we can bring the history into our new space as well.”
The classrooms, cafeteria and preschool center are expected to be done in time for the 2019-2020 school year.
The auditorium, however, will not be completed until December 2020 or January of 2021, Laumeyer said.
The project also includes demolition of the old junior high building, including the original structure built in 1928 and an addition built in 1950. That part of the demolition will take place in the summer of 2020.
Laumeyer said the project signals a positive future for the district.
"There's a lot of exciting stuff happening here in updating our facilities and learning opportunities for our students," he said.
“We’re just very grateful to our community," Laumeyer said. "It’s a wonderful addition and upgrade, not just to our school but to our community. We’re very grateful for the support of our community."