The Dodge City Community College Board of Trustees unanimously approved a proposal for all-new seating in the college’s Little Theatre at a special meeting on June 30.


"This upgrade in facilities directly supports the efforts of the college to improve engagement with the community by creating a more pleasant and comfortable experience while listening to and watching events held in the college theatre," DCCC vice president for administration and finance Glendon Forgey said.


Because the existing seating is low to the floor and uncomfortable to many audience members, it will be completely removed, he said.


"The new seating will be higher off the floor and will result in more comfortable seating and a more pleasurable experience for people watching performances in the theatre," he said.


In addition to being more comfortable, the new seating also will be easier to clean, Forgey said.


"The new material is an oil-based material called polyolefins," he said. "Even though the material is oil-based, it is still comfortable. In fact, one would probably not know the material wasn’t some cloth-based fabric, if not told."


The color of this new seating material is called "Sherpa Grape" and was selected because it closely matches the color of the existing theatre curtains, he said.


Because the new seats will be easier to clean, they also will help reduce the spread of germs, Forgey said.


Therefore, the college is requesting some of Ford County’s Strengthening People and Revitalizing Kansas (SPARK) funds, which are state-allocated relief funds for Kansas counties through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, to help pay for the upgrade.


With a winning bid of $55,903.25, Davis Furniture Company, of Melrose, Wis., was awarded the theatre seating contract, and pending their work schedule—and the availability of the material—the project could begin by August or September, Forgey said.


"The college is hopeful that the new seating will encourage more events at the theatre and more participation from the community," he said. "There is an abundance of talent in our community, and the new seating, sound system, and other improvements made to the theatre in the last few months will enhance the ambiance and experience of each performance."


DCCC Associate Professor of Vocal Music, Kerry Kuplic, said that in many respects, he thinks the Little Theatre is the "public face" of the college, as it hosts a variety of college events—such as concerts, athletic team meetings, and all-campus faculty and staff meetings—as well as pageants, contests, political meetings, and other community events.


"It’s important that we provide safe and comfortable seating for all the events we host on campus," Kuplic said. "Several concertgoers have told me that they have to stand in the back of the theatre after just 30 minutes or so in the old seats. The new seats will allow our guests to enjoy and participate more fully in whatever event they’re attending."


This new seating upgrade, as well as the theatre’s new sound system and recently renovated art gallery, all go a long way toward the college’s objective to increase cultural offerings on campus, he said.


"So much has been accomplished in just a few years, thanks to a successful fundraising partnership with the DCCC Foundation and through funds allocated by the administration," Kuplic said. "I’m very grateful to work with people who take campus improvement projects so seriously."