By Karen Billing
Staff WriterRancho Santa Fe School District Superintendent Lindy Delaney said she is thrilled to be finally nearing the end of the great “chair” search for the Performing Arts Center. After a lengthy quest, they have zeroed in on a UK company called Audience System, which specializes in a retractable seating system that shapes to an auditorium while providing the maximum number of chairs.
“Luckily we found something that feels right,” Delaney said of the cozy, red fold-up chairs in a system that also easily folds up and retracts in the back of an auditorium, cutting down lengthy set-up and take-down time. “It’s the perfect solution for us.”
“It also makes (the PAC) a more rentable facility,” said trustee Marti Ritto.
At the Oct. 6 RSF School District board meeting, the board approved going out to bid for the modification of the PAC for the installation of the system — it will require a seven-foot platform toward the back of the center and some new doors. The board also approved a proposal from Audience Systems, not to exceed $320,000.
“We will get the fully functioning theater that was intended and get the flat floor,” said Delaney of the multi-functional space.
Not putting permanent seats in the PAC was important as the school wanted to maintain the flexibility of a flat floor in the elementary and middle school setting. A retractable system gives them multiple options.
Debi Vaughn-Cleff, of Webb-Cleff Architecture and Engineering, recently took a trip to Virginia to see a working Audience System theater. Set up took just 10 minutes with one man giving a slight tug on a cord that allowed the seat system to roll out.
Taking the system down was just as easy—it only took one person and it retracts itself into a 7-foot-wide box.
Delaney is working toward having a 300-seat theater with 20-inch fold-up chairs. There will be wooden railings, wide aisles and LED-lit steps. The board still has to decide on the seat backs being black plastic or wood and also on the flooring (either carpeting or a black “sports floor”-type covering).
To help raise money for the seating, Delaney plans to sell seats for $1,000 — a donor name plate will go on the back of the seat. They have already sold 70 of the 300 seats through the 320 Club promotion and she is optimistic they can sell the rest.
“I feel like these are the kind of chairs people will like to put their name on,” Delaney said.
With the system they will also be purchasing 100 black chairs without arms that musicians can use during instrumental performances.
Delaney said she is looking at doing the pre-installation work of the platform and doors over winter break and ordering the seating system in February or March.