The doors to the newly refurbished Defiance Community Auditorium in downtown Defiance were open to the public during an open house Wednesday evening, prior to, and following the Defiance City Board of Education meeting held on the stage of the facility at 5 p.m.

During the meeting, the board handled a light agenda. Prior to the meeting the annual records commission meeting was held (see related story, Page A3).

What those in attendance found Wednesday inside the auditorium was a bright space with several updates.

Those updates include: the addition of air conditioning; upgrades to the heating and HVAC system; new exterior doors on the north side of the building; updated bathroom fixtures; updated lighting, including LED Edison bulbs that fit the period of the building, and step lighting to the balcony; an updated light board for stage production; new paint; new carpet; new curtains; a refurbished stage; new stage skirting; and refinished woodwork throughout.

In addition, the Fort Defiance Players added a new LCD projector to the space. The group also updated the sound system a few years ago.

The updates have been completed at a cost of $427,585.33, with all the work done by local businesses through the bid process.

“This is a truly beautiful facility, and the upgrades are something our students and our community deserve,” stated Cathy Davis, president of the Defiance City Board of Education. “For anyone who would like to take a tour of the facility, please call the district office and we will arrange for that to take place.”

Superintendent Bob Morton thanked the board for its commitment to the project, noting a school production will take place in the space in November.

“I applaud the board for seeing to it that these upgrades to the auditorium were done throughout the entire construction project process,” said Morton. “I want people to know that this was all locally funded, this was not part of the bond issue, it was money set aside by the board.

“I’m just happy to help you follow through on your vision on what this auditorium has become, and what it means to the community,” added Morton. “When you see how nice this looks, along with our 2009 elementary school and the 2017-18 renovations there, our new 6-12 facility, upgrades to Fred J. Brown Stadium and our new spring sports complex, hands down we have the nicest facilities in the area. This auditorium, to me, is the cream on top of all of that.”

Friends Sharon (Mehring) Ott and Theresa (Lasek) LaForce were in attendance for the open house. The two graduated from Defiance High School in 1969, the last class to do so from the 1918 building in downtown Defiance. The two were pleased to see the upgrades and reminisce about their school days.

“What I remember about the auditorium from when we were in school, the chairs did not have upholstery, there wasn’t carpet anywhere on the floor and there certainly wasn’t any air conditioning,” said Ott.

Said LaForce: “I don’t know that I’ve been in here since 1969, so it’s nice to come in and see what it looks like now. It looks very, very nice, but it seems much smaller to me. I guess it seemed bigger when we were in school.

Ott shared that her father, Raymond “Smiley” Mehring, was a custodian at Defiance High School for many years, and that she remembers spending time in the auditorium with him. Both Ott and LaForce went up into the balcony to check out the view from upstairs as well.

“We didn’t get to go upstairs when we were in school, I had no idea that there were four flights of stairs (the stairs turn three times before reaching the balcony),” said Ott.

Added LaForce: “I was very surprised there were so many stairs, but there is a good view up there. It looks very, very nice, and I’m very glad this is still here for the younger people and the community.”

Morton shared the curtains were replaced by a business in Tiffin, that also replaced the curtains during a refurbishing back in the 1980s. The owner of the business made the curtains in the 1980s, and his son, Steve Miller, made the curtains for this upgrade using the same measurements that were still on file.

The superintendent also explained there is still work to do, including refinishing the floors under the seats on the main floor, and configuring the seats differently to create more seating space.

A timetable to do that work hasn’t been set, but Morton is hopeful it can be done in the summer of 2021.

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