Bozeman trustees approve plan for Willson Auditorium renovation


BOZEMAN, Mont. - The Bozeman School Board of Trustees voted unanimously Monday night to approve the final design for renovating the Willson School Auditorium. Deputy Superintendent of Operations Steve Johnson walked NBC Montana through the project for the Willson Auditorium. He said there are four plans, or phases, of the much-needed renovation. "There's just many needs in an old building," Johnson explained. Johnson showed NBC Montana the auditorium with old, uncomfortable seating, and its crumbling ceiling. Fixing the auditorium is their top priority. "We have a base bid we're planning on doing that would be just the auditorium and the back of the house," Johnson said. The base project is estimated to cost $1.8 million. Then, there's the second phase, or Alternate Bid #1. "Alternate #1 would be the elevator and the stairway and some restroom remodel," Johnson said. That would cost $700,000. Then there's Alternate Bid #2 -- $300,000 would cover renovations for the lobby area, business offices, and main corridor. The final alternate would be the upstairs community room/library, with a price tag of $400,000. The total for the four plans comes to $3.8 million. Johnson explained moving forward with each phase depends on how much money they have. "We really want to see the whole project done," he said, "but we've got it broken down so that we can do phases or portions of it if we don't have the money to do the whole thing." That's where fund-raising comes in. So far, they have raised $2.2 million, which is enough to get started. "We can do the heart of the project which is the auditorium itself," said MaryJo O'Donnell, the Executive Director of the Bozeman Schools Foundation. "But that would leave the lobby, the elevator, the stairs, and the reception room not funded." O'Donnell said she hopes the community will come together to raise enough money for the entire renovation. "We really want to make it a great place to come and be a patron of the arts, be a student, be an educator," she said. Bozeman Public Schools hopes to start the renovation of the auditorium and stage this May. To raise money for the rest of the Willson Renovation, the Bozeman Schools Foundation is doing a "Take a Seat" campaign. Anyone can purchase a seat in the auditorium. You'll get your name inscribed on the chair, and the money will go toward the renovation. To learn more, visit