By Jesse Wood
Feb. 17, 2014. The Blowing Rock Town Council voted to continue moving forward with transforming the old Blowing Rock Fire Station into the future home of Ensemble Stage as long as the production company is able to meet certain elements that Town Manager Scott Fogleman outlined in the town council meeting last week.
Ensemble Stage must be able to raise all funds for capital improvements for the facility and all necessary equipment to operate in the venue and place those funds into a dedicated escrow account to be reviewed monthly by the county.
Ensemble Stage must design and draft plans for council’s approval before any construction is to begin. Staff has 18 months to complete the two tasks above, and during that period, the town would not pursue another tenant or take any action that would prohibit Ensemble Stage from taking over the building.
In addition, Ensemble Stage, which is debt free, will be responsible for all operating costs of the building and related programs.
Having already discussed the matter at a retreat in January, the council had little discussion on the topic before voting its approval last Monday.
Ensemble Stage artistic director Gary Smith drafted a letter to the town requesting that the old fire station become the new home of the production company in November.
He mentioned that the nonprofit, professional theatre group has rented the Blowing Rock School Auditorium since its inception in 2009, sharing the space with Mountain Home Music, Blowing Rock School and various religious organizations.
“Unfortunately, due to scheduling logistics, auditorium condition, and patronage growth, that arrangement is no longer a viable option,” Smith wrote. “In order for Ensemble Stage to, not only continue to grow, but also to sustain itself as a performing arts entity, we are forced to look for a new, more exclusive home.”
Smith continued that the old fire station would allow Ensemble Stage to offer 30 weeks of entertainment and programming for the community and its visitors, while also providing a suitable venue option town and Blowing Rock Chamber events.
The production company also has plans to renovate the fire station at its own expense, Smith notes, into a 125-seat auditorium with a stage and theatrical lighting and sound, a lobby, restrooms, concession area and box office on the lower level, while the upper level would include a rehearsal room, “green room,” dressing rooms, tech booth and office.
For more information, click here for letters, town documents and more on the topic of transforming the old fire station into the future home of Ensemble Stage.