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Colonial Arts Center Manager Anne Wilson delivers a presentation on seating options for the Colonial Arts Center at Buckhannon City Council's Nov. 17, 2022 meeting. / My Buckhannon file photo

City seeking proposals for theatre-style seating in Colonial Arts Center

BUCKHANNON – The City of Buckhannon plans to seek bids from seating manufacturers for theatre-style seating in the new Colonial Arts Center.

At Buckhannon City Council’s Nov. 17 meeting, Colonial Arts Center Manager Anne Wilson presented a slideshow outlining the proposed seating options for the Colonial Arts Center Theatre, detailing some preliminary cost estimates. City council directed city officials to prepare an RFP, or Request for Proposals, for seating in both the Main Hall and Balcony Theatre.

“We know we can fit 80 seats up [in the balcony of the theatre], and we know we want them to be fixed seating because we will not need them to move,” Wilson said. “There is only one way to configure the seats, and the price of what we are looking at [ranges from] $24,000 to $32,000, which breaks down to $300 to $400 per seat.”

Wilson showed a diagram of the balcony seating which she said would be a combination of 20-, 21- and 22-inch chairs, adding that most were 21-inch to maximize the number of seats.

“We will be abiding with the Fire Marshal’s perimeters of the aisles,” Wilson said. “With the different sizes, everyone should be able to find a place that is comfortable. They will be vinyl/leather looking and will be easy to clean. There is an ADA-compliant seat included with that.”

Wilson then talked about telescopic seating – seating that is stored in a bank or is retractable – and would remain at the back of the hall. When it is needed, two or three people would be capable of rolling them out, and then the seats would pop up.

“We have six different options for the bank seating, which come from three different types of seats,” Wilson explained. “We looked at plastic bleachers, which are like what you would see on a basketball court. This type of seating would optimize the greatest number of seats, but they are the least comfortable, and they are the smallest and do not have cushions or fabric on them.”

The middle option for seating Wilson spoke of was something she said was popular in universities and classrooms. They are made of vinyl material, have cushions and spring up when not occupied.

“Those are a middle option that fit slightly fewer people than the bleachers do,” she explained. “They are less expensive than the final option.”

The final option Wilson showed – vinyl plush seats – are commonly found in most art centers and theatre spaces.

“These are definitely the largest and seat the least number of people – 92 to 122 people – and the range depends on whether we chose to do one center seating bank or two side seating banks,” Wilson said. “These can be slid back into the wall by two or three people which was the appeal of this option because it would be the simplest.”

Wilson said they also explored loose-style seating options for the Main Hall.

“If we wanted to do loose stackable chairs, 130 twenty-inch chairs are $22,000 to $23,000 and 130 twenty-two-inch chairs are $24,000 to $25,000. We would need a chair dolly which is $100 to $150,” she said. “These seats would have to be stacked when not in use, and we do not really have storage to move those seats if they need to be moved out of the way.”

Wilson said that although telescopic chairs are the most expensive option, they may be the best option because they will last the longest and carry the longest warranty. She said in borrowing loose chairs from the Event Center at Brushy Fork, they have learned it takes a great deal of manpower to transport loose chairs from place to place and to get them configured for events.

“The telescopic seating includes risers,” she said. “If we went with loose chairs, we would need to look for risers and factor in the price of those.”

Wilson said after talking with the Community Arts Center Board, they are leaning toward telescopic seating.

“Even though it is costly, we feel it is the best option,” Wilson said.

Buckhannon City Recorder Randy Sanders said when he attended the play “Clue,” he learned the seating was one thing attendees were disappointed in.

“Everyone had to scoot around and move to get a good view of the stage,” Sanders said. “You cannot be looking through heads to see a production. I would hate to have productions in that theatre with movable seating where you could only see the actors or performers from the waist up. Having the telescopic system where you could manage it is a no-brainer and is definitely the way to go.”

Buckhannon Councilman Jack Reger, who attended the council meeting via telephone, said he would like to see the pricing for telescopic seating that is mechanical, rather than manual because manual seating sometimes tends to break down over time.

“I would recommend we explore the cost for a motorized system,” Reger said. “I think we would get better wear out of the unit and I think we would have less frustration.”

City finance and administrative director Amberle Jenkins said she would recommend developing an RFP – a Request for Proposals – which would allow for the comparison of manufacturers’ submitted bids.

“What I would recommend, if council so wishes, is to go ahead and let us develop an RFP to send out to a couple of vendors and advertise this so we can get competitive bids,” Jenkins said. “Then we would have more detailed information such as warranties, and then we could look at financing.”

Reger requested that the bids include estimates both with and without motorized telescopic seating.

Councilman David McCauley made a motion to develop an RFP, which was seconded by Reger prior to passing unanimously.

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