Day in and day out Gretchen Scoggins is busy scheduling events at the Lumberton Independent School District Performing Arts Center in Lumberton, Texas.
As the district’s coordinator of special programs and communication, Scoggins said the 3,900-student district has a substantial fine arts program, and the 1,500-seat auditorium functions as the primary performing arts facility for school events—band concerts, choir performances, dance reviews, and the like. The center is also a go-to facility for community events like city banquets and graduations and regularly hosts shows for the deaf community as a complement to the district’s American Sign Language program.
Built by Dome Technology, the dome-shaped building stands 56 feet high and 179 feet in diameter. A connected foyer area was also constructed, which softens the look considerably, Scoggins said.
But the center’s principal role is functioning as a command center when weather gets out of hand. From June 2015 to June 2016, the first year the center was open, Lumberton experienced 173 weather-related events requiring emergency personnel to utilize the center.
“We’re on the Gulf Coast, so we are a hurricane-prone area. Our center becomes the command center (for the) few personnel that must stay until the eleventh hour,” Scoggins said. “That’s its primary purpose; we just get to use it the other 99 percent of the time for events.”
The center was finished with the safe-shelter function in mind, and “everything is ready to roll—literally—out of here,” Scoggins said. Removable auditorium seats and furnishings on dollies are carted to storage facilities across the parking lot to free up room for the emergency-management team staying during storms. During tornadoes, however, the center is the designated shelter-in-place for students at the adjacent high school and intermediate school.
The removable seats offer flexibility when there aren’t storms too and can be stored to clear an open area for dances and dinners when additional floor space is a must.
According to Scoggins, the center was built with a $3.9 million FEMA grant and $6 million from the school district. The district’s portion transformed the aesthetics of the place, covering the cost of the foyer, carpet, burgundy seating, wall sconces, and full landscaping.
Based on successful collaboration with Texas architect Brad Cutright, the Lumberton performing arts center is one of Dome Technology’s finest architectural projects, said the company’s project manager Daren Wheeler.
“The campus that this dome is on is a really sharp-looking campus. This is a big dome, and generally speaking, when you put a dome of this size on a property, it usually dominates it. That’s not the case here; it really complements the campus,” he said. “It really is a beautiful building.”