Although delayed for a couple of months due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the new seating project is now complete in the Dodge City Community College Little Theatre.


"The project kept being delayed because of unforeseen circumstances, which were related to COVID-19," Russ McBee, DCCC Director of Facilities and Operations, said. "But, when the workers finally got here, it was amazing to me to see how quickly things came out and went back in. Most days, they were only working with a two-man or three-man crew.These crews, which were contracted by Davis Furniture Company, of Black River Falls, Wis., began working on the project on Nov. 9 with the removal of the existing seats and brackets, McBee said. And by Saturday, Nov. 14, the new seats were installed, and the project was complete.Although the theatre has totally new seating, the layout and number of chairs remains unchanged, which means there are still a total of 315 seats—with the same areas as before designated for handicapped patrons. However, unlike the original seats, which were bolted to the fronts of the theatre’s risers, the new chairs are bolted to the floor underneath, he said.


"In addition to having the work crews from Davis, some of the DCCC baseball team members also were hired to help unbox the new seats and carry them into the theatre," McBee said.


"DCCC maintenance workers also added new handrails along the theatre’s east and west walls during the installation," he said. "For some odd reason, we had never had handrails along the stairs, which was a safety concern."


The new seating and handrails directly support the college’s efforts to improve engagement with the community by creating a more "pleasant and comfortable experience" while listening to and watching events in the college theatre, Glendon Forgey, DCCC Vice President for Administration and Finance said.


"The new seats are 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 seats are also 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 the new upholstery is called "Sherpa Grape" and is similar in shade and texture to that of the old seats. Sherpa Grape was selected because it closely matches the color of the theatre curtains, Forgey said.


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


Davis, who submitted a winning bid of $55,903.25, was awarded the theatre seating contract at a special DCCC Board of Trustees meeting on June 30.