New Maplewood Barn theater designs await feedback

Monday, August 16, 2010 | 12:01 a.m. CDT; updated 12:14 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, August 18, 2010

This article has been updated to reflect the actions taken at the Aug. 16 City Council meeting.

COLUMBIA — Audience members and the public will help decide on a final design for Maplewood Barn Community Theatre's new barn in Nifong Park, said Michael Scott, president of the theater's board of directors.

Two preliminary designs were presented to City Council for approval on Monday evening, along with plans for seeking public input, Scott said.

"Those options will be in the shape of the barn," Scott said. "Both will be painted red and white like the old barn was, but it will give us more of the lighting and sound that will be improved."

The placement of the barn is the biggest difference between the two options. In one design, the new barn would be reconstructed in the same location as original barn. In the other, the barn would be rebuilt northwest of the original location, allowing the hill in Nifong Park to create amphitheater seating for the audience. The theater's new stage, which was completed in March and survived the April 5 barn fire, would be relocated by the construction company.

Although there are still a lot of contingencies, Scott said barn reconstruction committee members are optimistic the plans for garnering feedback and funding will work out.

"We always, as part of the Parks and Rec planning process, seek public input," said Mike Hood, director of the Parks and Recreation Department and a member of the barn reconstruction committee.

The two preliminary designs will go through several outlets to gather public feedback:

  • The Parks and Recreation Department website will provide a forum for thoughts and opinions on the designs online.
  • On Aug. 31, an interested party meeting will be open to the public at the Boone County Historical Society.
  • On Sept. 3 through 5, design options will be on display during the final performances of "Camelot."
  • Sept. 18 through 19, design options will be on display at the Nifong Park Heritage Festival.

The reconstruction committee will use the feedback to refine a final plan for the council sometime in late September or October, then schedule another public interest meeting.

The plans for the interior of the barn are still unclear since the committee doesn't know exactly how much money they'll have for the project, Scott said.

Funding for the new barn will come from several channels:

  • Grant-writing and fundraising by Maplewood Barn Community Theatre.
  • Collecting money from the city's insurance policy on the old barn.
  • Reapproval of the city's 1/8-cent park sales tax.

The City Council decided Monday that the sales tax renewal will go on the November ballot. If approved by voters, the tax is estimated to generate $12 million for the department to improve the city's parks, Scott said. Roughly $200,000 of that would go to Nifong Park and a smaller portion of that money would help with reconstruction of the barn, he said.

"This just continues the 1/8-cent tax, it doesn't raise it," Scott said. "But it's relative. For us, it's giant. That kind of support lets us know that we could safely break ground."

The committee hopes to have the new barn open in May 2012. Until then, the theater will continue without it, Scott said.

"There will come a time, where two or three years down the road, where we'll remember back and say, 'How did we do that?'" Scott said. "I think the directors have really persevered and done a great job of getting these shows on stage."

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