It’s large. It’s grassy. It’s the elephant in the room.
The Mertes Center for the Arts outdoor amphitheater was constructed as a companion piece to the building’s indoor Main Stage Theater.
A tunnel was even constructed to connect the two stages to each other. Seating up to 1,500 people at a time, the amphitheater is the largest theater on the LPC campus.
But its amount of stage time is the smallest.
“The amphitheater has been used for about five events,” Renee Pegues, executive assistant for administrative services said.
That is, five events in the past three years.
All but dormant since its construction, the LPC amphitheater has barely been touched by the school and has not once been rented out to the outside world.
This is partly due to the fact that the amphitheater has yet to be completed.
According to the Las Positas College website’s latest strategic plan log on April 11, 2012, the Mertes Center for the Art’s outdoor amphitheater was listed as one of the school’s completed projects.
The log states, “In addition, completed in 2010 were the College Center for the Arts — with a 500-seat theater, 1,500- seat amphitheater, and classroom space.”
This is apparently only half true.
“It is not completed. There have been some issues with it,” Director of Student Life Cynthia Ross said, who was originally told that the Associated Students of Las Positas College (ASLPC) could not utilize the amphitheater.
While the foundation has been laid out and the structure has been molded, the amphitheater has a list of repairs and additions that must be made until it can finally be deemed 100 percent complete. The Facilities Committee has currently classified it as a small project.
“The amphitheater is a small project that has certainly secured funding to have the grass replaced with concrete,” facilities committee chair, Catherine Eagan said.
The grass is one of the more noticeable issues. Muddy spots can be found in various patches because of drainage problems in the underground watering system.
“Basically, the drainage system is wrong. The grass died, and this is what we have,” said Performing Arts Coordinator Cindy Browne Rosefield.
Ripping out the grass and putting in concrete is the minimum of what she suggests should be done to make the amphitheater more inviting.
“We currently have several requests. But with limited functionality, we have lost potentially interested renters, which result in lost dollars to the college,” was stated on the “Deferred Maintenance/Small Projects” form submitted by the Division Faculty to the Facilities Committee.
On the request form is a list of things that still need to be completed and were on the original design for the amphitheater. The list includes a truss system, a covering and sound, mixing, lighting and cabling systems.
“I have not yet heard whether the costs of the truss system, covering, sound system, mixing system, lighting system or cabling system have been estimated or approved,” Eagan said. “My understanding is that these things were supposed to be completed when the amphitheater was originally built but were not.”
Originally valued out for budget reasons, the completion of these additions would enable the amphitheater to hold a handful of events such as outdoor concerts, graduation ceremonies and summer musicals.
The Facilities Committee plans to use funding through LPC’s remaining bond money to address the amphitheater’s needs. How high it is on the list of priorities has not been confirmed, but the amphitheater is only one of over 40 small projects and also competes with construction plans for another school building.
But while all these plans are in discussion, the amphitheater still has its uses on campus.
Events and performances that require little to no technology can still be held for students and the public to enjoy.
“Anyone can use it right now. All they need to do is a facilities request through Renee Pegues,” Browne Rosefield said.
This means that the ASLPC, clubs and outside vendors are able to rent and use the amphitheater to host virtually any kind of event. The Performing Arts Program itself has held drum circles on the amphitheater’s stage during the previous school year, on Friday afternoons. Events for the spring semester are also said to be planned.
Students can also be found lounging around and taking naps on the amphitheater’s stage and bleachers.
“I don’t think it is really a waste of space. It is actually a really peaceful area to have quiet time to read a book or relax,” communications major April Harper said.
Harper looks forward to the completion of the amphitheater and hopes to see outdoor concerts and movie nights for students to enjoy.
“We will hear the results of the consulting firm’s cost estimates for the amphitheater at the next Facilities meeting,” Eagan said. The next Facilities meeting will be on Monday, Dec. 16 at 2:30 p.m.