Discussion continues regarding Rogers, Zimmerman auditoriums

by Nathan Warner and Jim Boyle

ECM Publishers


More than 200 people passionate about the arts and hopeful for an auditorium in Rogers and Zimmerman have been asked how they could help accomplish such a task.

The Elk River Area School District posed this and other questions at a pair of recent meetings on the subject of auditoriums led by Charlie Blesener, the district’s director of community engagement, and an ad hoc committee of the Elk River Area School Board.

So far, 30 have agreed to serve on a merged committee of Rogers-area citizens and Zimmerman-area citizens.

This group will formulate a joint vision and work to find financing solutions.

Both groups of attendees at Rogers and Zimmerman overwhelmingly support the notion of a community-specific auditorium design rather than a singular district-wide amenity.

Ideas of how to get there are already flowing after the two meetings.

Rogers attendees suggested garnering financial support for the auditorium from large businesses such as Target and Kohl’s and measures such as seeking corporate grants and selling bricks engraved with people’s names  during construction. Some offered to talk to their employers, charitable organizations and foundations, and hold fundraisers in the community.

Rep. Joyce Peppin told the Rogers group she felt that Legacy Amendment funds would be well spent on such a project.

Attendees at Zimmerman’s meeting suggested businesses could advertise in the theater once it’s up, students and staff could provide a service or product (such as coffee) and the school could offer rented auditorium space to dance studios, churches and group meetings.  Some in attendance also suggested holding fund-raising fashion shows, encouraging students to go door knocking to raise awareness, caroling in the community and asking students and teachers to donate funds to the auditorium.

Blesener said he hoped the first committee meeting, composed of participants, would take place before the election, but was unsure if that was going to happen.

The auditoriums are not directly linked to the levies; however, without their passage the challenge before the two communities would become considerably more difficult, school officials have said.

Superintendent Mark Bezek indicated if the levies passed, Wold Architects could go ahead with auditorium planning and design based on some of the ideas that have been hatched so far.

Creating the funding mechanism for construction, however, would remain the most the challenging aspect facing the communities of Rogers and Zimmerman.

The fun part could be assembling each community’s hopes and dreams for an arts program for the benefit of the school and community.