Finding boosts King Kekaulike arts center

The state Department of Education has found no significant environmental impact for a proposed King Kekaulike High School Performing Arts Center.

The finding advances the center project, with its estimated costs of $29 million for phase one and $13 million for phase two. Phase one includes a 400-seat, 22,000-square-foot performance facility with a lobby, house, stage and back-of-house support functions. The second phase calls for building a nearly 12,300-square-foot “black box” space for free-form performances, instructional areas and administrative offices.

Upcountry state Rep. Kyle Yamashita, a member of the House Finance Committee, said design funds of approximately $600,000 already have been appropriated for the project’s first phase. Some construction funds were set aside for the project during last year’s legislative session, and the balance of money needed for construction has been included in the House version of the state budget, he said Friday.

House and Senate money committee conferees need to meet to hammer out the state’s final spending plan.

Yamashita did not have immediate access to the funding figures for the performing arts center. He said actual costs would vary depending on the project’s final design.

The auditorium, which would be part of a learning center for visual and performing arts, has been part of King Kekaulike’s master plan since the Pukalani school opened in 1995. Yamashita said the theater’s design would be flexible so that it could be reconfigured to best accommodate theatrical productions, band performances or speaking events.

The facility would be located on what’s now an open area north of the 50-acre school’s main entrance, between its administration building and football field.

According to the project’s final environmental assessment, the need for the performance space is demonstrated by the amount of ongoing activities. Those annual activities include three musical comedies with casts of 40 to 50 students and pit bands of 10 to 15 musicians, a drama production with up to 20 students, various student-directed shows and three concerts involving dozens of musicians and singers.

“The proposed performing arts center is intended as an inward-looking venue to showcase student performances to faculty, staff, parents and friends and to the surrounding community,” the assessment says.

While the project’s construction would result in dust, noise and exhaust from heavy equipment, those unavoidable impacts would be temporary and mitigated by best-management practices, the study says.

“There are no expected long-term negative impacts to the environment, community resources or infrastructure,” the report said.

The center’s design is being based on environmentally sustainable principles, with attention paid to the buildings’ siting, multiple water conservation measures, the selection of recycled and recyclable materials, the use of day lighting, energy conservation and enhanced indoor air quality.

The first-phase performing arts theater would be built on the western portion of the project site, east of the school’s basketball and tennis courts. The building would be rectangularly shaped, measuring about 105 feet wide and 200 feet long and aligned in a north-to-south direction.

The theater’s 400-seat capacity would be enough to seat one of the school’s entire grade levels and other students. It would “provide an intimate theater suitable for young performers,” the assessment says.

The proscenium-type stage would be 36 feet deep and 100 feet wide. It would include a rigging pit and dedicated storage space for an orchestra shell, music risers and a grand piano. The fixed proscenium opening would be 44 feet wide and 20 feet tall to accommodate a future concert band of 80 to 85 musicians.

“Side stages are included to provide additional acting space and direct access from audience cross-aisle to stage, including wheelchair access,” the assessment says.

Seating would be laid out in a continuous bank of seats from front to rear with aisles at each exterior wall and two interior aisles.

“This four-aisle plan combines audience cohesion with multiple exit/entrance opportunities to minimize the time it takes students to get seated for a class period event,” the study says. “Vestibules will be provided at all entrances to prevent exterior sound and light from penetrating the house.”

A control room would be elevated above the last row of seats to give operators a clear view of the stage and house. The booth would have stations for lighting, stage management, video and sound control.

Other features include a lobby with a small box office, scene and costume shops, restrooms, changing and makeup rooms, and a “green room” near the stage for performers to assemble when not on stage.

The project’s second phase – the black box/education building – would be free-standing from the main theater. It would be designed for “everyday use,” including classes (mostly acting), rehearsals and student productions. The building would be able to accommodate 200 people at maximum capacity.

“One of the primary characteristics of a studio theater like this black box is flexibility,” the assessment says. “The users have the freedom to create an audience-performer relationship unique to any production.”

The environmental review may be viewed online at the state Office of Environmental Quality Control’s online publication of the March 23 issue of The Environmental Notice. It can be found at

State law requires the preparation of an environmental assessment when public lands or taxpayer money are involved in a project. The Honolulu consulting firm of Leo A. Daley Co. prepared the document for the high school’s performing arts center project.

* Brian Perry can be reached at