(L to R) Dr. Daniel Lane, FCHS Principal, Dr. Myra Rhoden, the Band Director and Fine Arts Department Chair, and Andrew McMillen, Assistant Band Director, celebrate the groundbreaking of the new Fayette County High School auditorium with the school’s band. (Staff Photo by Christopher Dunn)

“The moment we’ve been waiting for has finally arrived, the moment we officially begin construction of the Fayette County High School auditorium.”

Signifying what he called the start of a new era, Dr. Daniel Lane, FCHS Principal, beckoned a number of school system figures and local dignitaries to join him as they officially broke ground Thursday afternoon on the much-anticipated 31,622 square foot performance and practice space. The targeted completion date is Fall of 2018.

“I’ve chosen this spot here because this is the area where our facility will connect to the school, where all of our students will have access to a state-of-the-art facility and not have to walk outside in the rain or the cold or the heat,” said Lane. “Let’s break some ground.”

A sentiment of optimism was hanging in the air.

“We are so excited,” said Dr. Myra Rhoden, the Band Director and Fine Arts Department Chair at FCHS. “We would like to thank the Superintendent and the Board (of Education) for making the investment in the children here at Fayette County High School.”

In late June, the Board of Education voted unanimously in favor of the facility with a guaranteed maximum price of $8.4 million, with funding of $3.5 million from Education Special Local Option Sales Tax (ESPLOST) revenues and $4.9 million from available capital and reserves.

“Just imagine no more long walks in the rain or the heat to Sams Auditorium or moving equipment to the amphitheater or having concerts in the cafeteria,” she said. “We get to actually be on a stage.”

With an active fine arts program, the number of students who will directly benefit includes 200 students in the band program, 120 in the orchestra and piano program, 170 in the drama program, 150 in the chorus program, and more than 200 in the arts program.

“That’s a lot of kids, and all of those students are going to be impacted, as well as the rest of our student body,” said Rhoden.

Tionci Green, a FCHS senior and Marching Band Drum Major, shared the story of what fine arts has meant to her. Moving to Fayetteville, it helped bring her a sense of belonging.

“I didn’t know anyone when I came here. It could’ve been traumatic for me. It could’ve made for an awful freshman year. It could’ve made high school bad for me altogether,” she said. “But since day one, band instantly welcomed me into its tight-knit group. I’ve made some of my best friends in band.

“I wouldn’t trade these experiences for the world.”

She recounted the envy many in the band felt when traveling for competitions and seeing other facilities, but they don’t have to worry about that anymore.

“Thanks to all the hard work of our directors, our staff, our parents, and the Board, we officially have our own auditorium,” she said. “This auditorium represents the future and a new beginning for Fayette County High School.”