After years of drama, Estancia High performing arts complex construction begins
Nearly two decades after promising to build a state-of-the-art performing arts complex at Estancia High School, Newport-Mesa Unified School District officials have broken ground on the $42-million project.
Construction began last Friday on the east end of the Costa Mesa campus along Placentia Avenue, an act being celebrated by those who’ve long awaited an arts venue comparable to other NMUSD high schools.
“This new theater represents the start of an exciting new chapter, where lifelong memories will be created for students and audience members who step through the new doors,” Estancia drama director and instructor Amber Marroquin said in a statement Wednesday. “It will be a joyous day when the theater opens.”
Funded by a $27-million allocation from the $282-million Measure F school bond passed in 2005, the theater was sidelined in the wake of rising construction costs for other projects.
Adamant about delivering on their promise, the NMUSD Board of Trustees in 2019 approved a concept design for a new arts complex on the southeast corner of campus.
But when students learned building the theater in the proposed location would require the demolition of a nearly 1-acre senior lawn, whose mature shade trees provided much-needed green space, some protested.
Costa Mesa city officials entered into the fray, filing a lawsuit in 2021 claiming the district did not seek adequate public input on the project’s environmental impacts. The case wound its way through the court system, delaying the build even further.
To settle the matter, school officials last April invited the public to give feedback on various locations, subsequently agreeing to a northward relocation of the 46,000-square-foot performing arts complex and its 350-seat theater, lobby, classroom space and black box theater.
District and school officials met informally at the site Friday to celebrate a milestone years in the making.
“We look forward to bringing a world-class theater to the Estancia campus,” Principal Michael Halt said in a statement ahead of the meeting. “We extend our heartfelt gratitude to the exceptional leadership of [Supt. Wes Smith] and the school board for their unwavering commitment to providing our students the performing arts center they truly deserve, all while preserving the green space cherished by our school and community.”
Drama student and EHS junior Jose Gomez shared Halt’s enthusiasm.
“This theater isn’t just a building that’s being added onto our school,” he said. “It’s the beginning of a new era for the Arts in Estancia, and I’m more than proud to be a part of it.”
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