A $7 million donation will allow Moline High School to step in line with other area schools that have performing arts centers.
The Robert E. Bartlett Family Foundation offered the grant last summer, and on Monday, the Moline-Coal Valley School Board voted unanimously to enter into a development agreement to result in the $10 million Bartlett Performing Arts Center.
As such, it will join similar facilities in the Quad-Cities, including the Davenport Central High School auditorium, set to open in May, and the Performing Arts Center at Bettendorf High School, which opened in March 2013.
"This is just a great shot in the arm for Moline," Deborah Bracke said. Bracke is chairman of the Robert E. Bartlett Family Foundation, which is named for Bob and his sister, Bonnie Bartlett, both graduates of Moline High School.
The Bartlett center will be a state-of-the-art facility with a modernized stage area, improved theatrical lighting and sound system, a new set-building area and expanded lobby to display district and community art.
Dave McDermott, the district's chief financial officer, said while plans have not been finalized, it is thought the arts center will be an addition to the front of the existing auditorium.
"A wow factor in the front of the building," he said.
The current auditorium was built in 1958 and has a seating capacity of 1,000. But areas of the auditorium are tiny and out-of-date, including on the basement level for the dressing rooms, rooms for costumes and props.
The budget for the new center will be $7 million from the foundation, and about $3 million from future construction funds in the district. Those funds, McDermott said, will come mainly from the 1-cent sales tax increase for facility improvements, which was approved in November by Rock Island County voters.
The center will be open to the community as well as students, Superintendent Lantry McGuire said.
The Bartlett family has been involved in the arts for many years, Bracke said. Bob's father, E.E. Bartlett, was a founder of the Quad-City Music Guild. Bonnie Bartlett, Bob's sister, was in the first group of graduates to be in the high school's Hall of Honor, and won an Emmy Award for her work in television.
Bracke is in touch with Bonnie Bartlett, and said the professional actress, who starred in the television show "St. Elsewhere," with her real-life husband, William Daniels, is interested in returning home for the auditorium project.
The project was lauded by several people at the Monday meeting. Ben McAdams, a member of the school board, remembered Bob Bartlett as a proud graduate of Ericsson Elementary School, and a big supporter of Moline.
Former Moline Mayor Stan Leach is a member of the Bartlett Family Foundation. What Bob Bartlett would have wanted, he said, is for the kids of Moline to benefit from the new performing arts center.
"And they will," Leach said.