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Rodney renovation draws plenty of ‘oohs' and ‘ahhs'

April 03, 2002|By AARON CLAVERIE, Staff Writer

CALEXICO — There were plenty of "oohs" and a more than a few "ahhs" as a big group of San Diego State University and Calexico High School alumni toured the newly renovated Rodney Auditorium at SDSU- Imperial Valley campus here Tuesday.

The university has recently spent around $1 million spiffing up the 75-year-old landmark.

The auditorium features new velvety red curtains on the stage and windows, a new paint job, a redesigned stage that features stairs cascading to the auditorium floor and new hanging lighting fixtures.

What the auditorium doesn't have is new seats.

To remedy that situation, SDSU-IV will be selling the old brown chairs and selling naming rights to the new burgundy chairs.

For decades the auditorium was a part of the Calexico High School campus, where the SDSU-IV campus is now. Even after Calexico High School opened on Andrade Avenue, CHS used Rodney for graduation ceremonies. In the last few years, Aurora High School and other learning institutions have used the building for ceremonies. Other groups have put on concerts or plays there.

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To make sure whoever uses it in the future is sitting on new chairs, the university hopes to raise around $80,000, according to Mayor Pro Tem John Renison, SDSU-IV's director of advancement.

Before leading the group of around 40 alumni and community members on the auditorium tour, Renison explained how the university would raise the money at a "seating campaign kickoff ceremony."

He said there are 460 chairs in the auditorium. To buy the old chairs or have a name added to a new chair or row of chairs, interested parties should talk to Norma Saikhon, county public administrator and chair of the dean's advisory board, or pick up brochures at the administration offices of SDSU-IV.

Saikhon said, "We're going to sell every seat, so hurry up and get in line. If you want one, don't be left out."

Calexico Mayor Victor Carrillo urged community members and his fellow SDSU grads to get involved in the project because of the rich history of Rodney Auditorium.

"There have been so many events held here: the funeral for Willis Ward, the football player who died in 1933, was held here; the Mercado sisters have been in plays and recitals here and the city and the Chamber of Commerce have held beauty pageants, forums and debates here," he said.

After the mayor spoke, SDSU-IV Dean Khosrow Fatemi explained how the university found itself having to raise money to buy new seats.

He said, "We ran out of money."

Two years ago the state gave the campus around $1 million to renovate the auditorium. At the time there were many plans on how that money would be spent.

After construction started, the budget for the stage renovation ballooned and finishing touches on the auditorium such as new seats or a sound system proved too expensive, according to Fatemi.

"We had no sound system … but I want to thank the city of Calexico for enabling us to provide that service," he said.

The council recently allocated $25,000 to buy a sound system for the auditorium.

At the time, City Councilman Gilbert Grijalva asked Renison, "Can we get a plaque?"

Renison has vowed to get the council a plaque noting its support.

As the tour winded down, chamber Executive Director Hildy Carrillo-Rivera was asked if the chamber was thinking about bringing back the beauty pageants that the mayor talked about.

"Bleechhh," she said and grimaced.

In lieu of pageants, Carrillo-Rivera said the chamber could sponsor plays and other such artistic endeavors at Rodney.

"How about a Neil Simon play?" she asked.

>> Staff Writer Aaron Claverie can be reached at 337-3419 or claverie7@hotmail.com

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