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Updated: Quarter Million Dollar Fix Needed for MSSU Taylor Theat - KOAM TV 7

Updated: Quarter Million Dollar Fix Needed for MSSU Taylor Theater

Updated:
Joplin, MO -

Updated with clarification from Joplin Fire Dept. 

Two safety issues at MSSU'S Taylor Auditorium will cost an estimated $250 thousand dollars to fix. And are creating frustrations for dance studios which had contracted to use the facility for recitals happening in less than a month. 

  Urgent action is underway in the theater stage area where a fly  system rigging  for suspending scenery, lighting and curtains above the stage floor was recently deemed unsafe.
    Associated Theatrical Contractors or ATC workers are  pulling out the cables, replacing some of  them  and stabilizing the system to make it 'dead' hung or static. 
    The  inspection also determined that curtains in the facility are no longer fire retardant and need to be replaced. 

MSSU Communications director Cassie Mathes said the curtains have not been mentioned or flagged in fire safety inspections which are performed twice a year by the city fire Marshall and it's insurance carrier.  But she said the university is looking at replacing all of them based on the ATC inspection. 

***The Joplin Fire chief tells KOAM the last time the department did a true inspection of the theater was in 2013. Chief Jim Furgerson said the department does more routine walk through visits of MSSU facilities and can make recommendations that the university can choose to follow. But as a state owned and operated building, Taylor Auditorium and other buildings are the responsibility of the state. The university does have its own on campus safety director namely, Chris Houk, who does separate inspections. The Joplin fire chief said previous full  inspections did not indicate an issue with the curtains. 

Those were both concerns to Nicole Amayo, owner of Karen's Dance studio which has used the Taylor Auditorium for recitals for decades. Amayo said her concern, "I  believe at this time one of those, the fly system, has had a temporary fix made to it, but to my knowledge  both of the safety concerns they have were not alleviated. So we decided to  go somewhere else at this time."  Amayo said as a business owner she would want documentation showing safety concerns were addressed and she hasn't received that with concern to the curtains not passing inspection. 

She said other venues are not as big. "We've had to,  we are having our childrens show at east middle school  in Joplin and because its smaller house seating, we're having to do two of those shows  instead of one. And then later that evening we'll be going to Pittsburg to Memorial auditorium to do our older children.  While east has a beautiful stage and it will be perfect for our little guys,  the stage is not big enough  for our older kids and classes that have more kids in them nor does it have the same lighting  that we have been used to having at Southern." 

Amayo, who grew up dancing on the MSSU stage,  said frustration isn't her only emotion, "Mainly, I think I'm disappointed.  Obviously we've been going there for almost 40 years  so its sort of breaking tradition for us. 

The owner of Ovation Studios, Melanie Friesen will stick with Taylor for her recital. She said there were not suitable options and she had already advertised the date and location with parents. Plus, Friesen said she believes  the facility will be ready. She said, "I feel confident in the fact if they're going to rent us the facility that you know everything's  going to be functioning and in good order for us to use it." 

    The estimated cost for all stage and curtain replacements is a quarter of a million dollars.
Renovations are needed for the entire Taylor Performing Arts Center  
    That  fifteen-million dollar project is  now at the top of the university's capitol improvements list. 
Mathes said any work on the stage from this point on would require a bidding process. The temporary fix at sixteen thousand dollars fell under the bidding requirement threshold. 

Dance studios renting the facility for a day pay upwards of four thousand dollars. Mathes said individual rentals are not a big money maker for the university. When asked how those funds are used Mathes said, "Our university, our financials are not structured that way at this point to go for that rental revenue to go back to individual facilities on campus.  But it does allow our administration to make centralized decisions about this theater  over here might need new lights, this theater over here might need new seats  or something might need repaired at TPAC. They're able to do that from more of a central perspective cause some of those replacements are expensive."

Mathes said the lack of a fly system will impact the theater program. But students will still be able to learn stage craft in the university's black box theater in Webster Auditorium. 
 

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