Ag center auditorium under renovation

Published 6:03 pm Thursday, February 16, 2012

A view of the auditorium at the Mill Spring Agricultural Center, which is being renovated to serve as a venue for classes, concerts and other community events. (photo submitted by Patrick McLendon)

Seats available for adoption to help pay renovation costs
Area residents may soon have a new venue available for classes, conferences, plays, concerts and other events.
The Mill Spring Agricultural Center has recently begun renovating its auditorium, which long served as a meeting place for students at the Mill Spring School. Many Polk County residents remember school plays, recitals, lectures and graduations that occurred there and the echoes of those events still ring through the halls.
The renovations are possible only because of a program through which alumni, friends and family can adopt seats. Donors can choose the seats they want to adopt. Each adopted seat is marked with the donor’s name or in honor or memory of a classmate or friend. So far, 28 seats have been adopted by friends of the ag center and alumni of Mill Spring School.
According to Patrick McLendon, director of the ag center, one alumnus, who wishes to remain anonymous, has issued a challenge to his classmates. After adopting an entire row, he emailed everyone he knew to see if he could find someone to best his contribution.
McLendon said one of the center’s regular volunteers, Bill Nierman, has been the primary impetus behind the auditorium renovations.
“Bill has been a force for change in the auditorium,” McLendon said. “At 72 years old, he gets up on scaffolding, patches walls and does whatever is needed.”
The auditorium renovations will move forward in three stages, McLendon said. The first stage is to repair cracks and holes in the walls; make roof repairs; prime, paint, sand and refinish the floor and seats and place temporary window dressings. McLendon said the first stage should be complete by mid-March.
“In fact, the first public use of the auditorium is scheduled in March,” McLendon said. “CooperRiis actors will present a play about Persephone on March 16.”
The second stage of auditorium renovations will include upgrading the window dressings, replacing electrical outlets, repairing auditorium and stage lights, repairing the stage curtain and refinishing stage closets and entrances.
Finally, the third stage will be to refinish the stage floor, incorporate sound and lighting systems, replace stage hardware and refinish all the little bits and pieces that were left unfinished until then.
McLendon said he is excited about the possible uses the auditorium could have for the community. He said he could see many different area organizations using the facility for meetings, concerts (there’s already a piano on site), classes, plays and other performances.
Volunteer crews meet Tuesdays and Thursdays starting at 9 a.m. to work in the auditorium.
For more information about seat adoption or volunteering, visit or come to the ag center.
“If you come to the PolkFresh TradePost, the ag center’s farm store,” McLendon said, “whoever is working there that day will be able to help you.”
The ag center is located in Mill Spring near the intersection of Hwy. 108 and Hwy. 9. The farm store is open Monday – Saturday, 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.
Other areas of the ag center, which is owned and operated by the Polk County Soil and Water Conservation District, have been renovated over the past several years. The facility is now home to several government offices, private businesses, agriculture products distribution center and a farmers’ cooperative store.

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