Although the Sweetwater Municipal Auditorium is over 80 years old, it continues to be a viable part of the community, serving as the location of the Miss Snakecharmer pageant and Municipal Band Christmas concert every year, as well as a venue for a variety of musicians and performers and community events. In fact, the buildingâ€™s age brings a lot of character and beauty to it that it wouldnâ€™t have otherwise.
However, an aging building requires significant upkeep to maintain viability. That is why the board of directors for the auditorium continues to be active in not only booking events and artists, but also in raising funds to keep the auditorium comfortable for its audience members.
The most recent improvement to accommodate the comfort of audiences was to add to the capacity of the restrooms. Board member Larry Ludlum said the board raised money for about three years to come up with funds to receive a matching grant. The cost for doubling the capacity of the downstairs restrooms was approximately $50,000, and was just completed.
The renovations involved taking the existing menâ€™s and womenâ€™s lobby restrooms and converting both into one larger womenâ€™s restroom. Then, a new menâ€™s restroom was built under the balcony. Both are still accessed from the lobby.
The old downstairs restrooms only served one or two people at once, while the new ones are capable of serving five at once in both the menâ€™s and womenâ€™s. There are also mirrors, updated napkin dispensers, new sinks and fixtures, and stall doors. Ludlum also pointed out that there will be hot water coming into the restroom and they are now handicap accessible.
The next step is to renovate the balcony restrooms, which currently serves one woman or one man at a time and are very small. Ludlum projected that this will cost approximately $40,000. They will begin raising funds for this project soon. They also want to improve the heating and air conditioning systems, which could cost between $50,000 and $75,000, according to estimates.
The last major renovation took place in 2003 when seating was replaced downstairs. Ludlum said they want to replace the balcony seating in the future. That could cost around $125,000.
Another current addition to the auditorium is the newest piano, for which the Nolan County Foundation pledged to donate $2,000 towards if another $2,000 is raised for it. The piano is a Yamaha digital electric grand.
The board hopes to put a dent in that $2,000 with the upcoming concert featuring award-winning pianist and singer/songwriter Kristine Mirelle. This will take place Saturday, Dec. 15 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are still available at the Chamber of Commerce for $10 each or $15 for reserved seating. Contact the chamber at 235-5488. All funds raised will help fund improvements to the auditorium.