By Andra Bryan Stefanoni
PITTSBURG, Kan. —
Friday was a day that many in attendance said they have been looking forward to for 35 years, when the historic Carney Auditorium was condemned and Pittsburg State University no longer had a performance space of its magnitude.
Orville Brill, former Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences, said there was a moment where he wasn’t sure if the campus would ever have another large venue for concerts and lectures. “But Gorillas find a way,” said Kathleen Flannery, executive director of University Development, during a ceremonial groundbreaking for a $30 million replacement: The Center for the Arts, to be built on the southeast corner of Homer and Ford streets. The ceremony was held in John Lance Arena in the Weede Gymnasium to the north, and featured an indoor “dirt turning” with soil in a cart on wheels. It was attended by city officials, members of the Kansas Board of Regents, university supporters from the community, and students, faculty and staff.
“At the same time they were tearing down Carney, we were already talking about what was going to replace it,” said Registrar Debbie Greve before the ceremony began. “It’s been a long time coming.”
During the ceremony, Student Government Association President Lara Ismert described it as “one of the most historic days in PSU history,” noting that nearly a quarter of the construction costs will be covered by student fees, voted on by the student body last April. PSU President Steve Scott also commended an as-yet anonymous donor, whose single gift of $10 million “made us believe we could get it done.”
Tim Emert, chair of the Kansas Board of Regents, said he believes the relationship between the community and PSU is unique among all other Regents institutions, and said the center “makes a strong statement that the arts are alive and thriving” in Southeast Kansas.
Work already is underway to prepare the site for construction.