The City Council and other community leaders involved in the project tried to keep the center’s name secret from Mayor Pat Vaughn, but she did find out about the honor just before the event, said City Manager Brad Hulsey.
Vaughn, who was first elected in 2003, is the city’s first woman mayor.
In the Victorian-style entryway with glittering chandeliers and heavy drapes hangs a bronze plaque with a carved portrait of Vaughn and the names of the City Council members.
“This means everything to me, and I am so very proud,” said Vaughn with a beaming smile.
The opening of the community performance space at the Coach George E. Ford Center, less than a mile from City Hall, coincides with the celebration of the city’s 175th anniversary this weekend.
Vaughn thanked the crowd for their part in creating the space.
Construction of the arts center begin last summer and final tweaks were made opening day Thursday.
Vaughn said having visitors in the center is “truly a dream come true.” The next step will be to get a production on the small stage lined with black velour curtains.
Setting the stage
Guests enjoyed appetizers and sipped sweet tea during the open house. Attendees included Austell Mayor Joe Jerkins, Acworth Mayor Tommy Allegood and Cobb Commissioner Lisa Cupid, who represents the area.
Cupid said the arts center sets the bar for future investment in Powder Springs and promotes people staying in west Cobb for entertainment — rather than driving to Marietta or Atlanta.
“I was looking at the stage envisioning a play,” she said.
The construction firm Croy Engineering was contracted to build the 7,000-square-foot theater with a 28- by 22-foot stage for $383,000.
“It is quite an asset to Powder Springs,” said Jim Croy, the firm’s founder.
Eric Flynn, a program manager for Croy, said the venue is a flexible space.
“This place doesn’t really have a single purpose,” he said.
The theater offers a range of options in seating for an event, including a setup with tables that can seat 128 people, or rows of chairs that can seat 240.
Vaughn envisions not only a space for plays, but a venue for talent shows, mystery dinner theater, recitals, art exhibitions and receptions.
A history lesson
In 1990, the Cobb School District gifted the 4.5 acre property that once housed the old Powder Springs Elementary School to the city to be used for cultural activities.
The City Council created the Ford Center Board of Directors to manage and plan the future development of the four-building city complex.
Some of the first members on that board were former faculty members or students of the elementary school. They gave excellent input on how best to honor the space, Vaughn said.
The building dates back to 1917, but the campus of the old school has gained new city buildings and received several upgrades over the past 12 years with the addition of a reception hall and a county library.
The rounds of renovations have used federal and state grants, as well as a 2005 city bond and 2011 SPLOST money, totaling $3.2 million, Hulsey said.