CUERO – An 800-seat performing arts center under construction is expected to benefit the city and the school district.

Scheduled for an August 2016 completion, the center, which came to fruition as part of a $76 million bond project, will mean new athletic space for Cuero High School along with space for choir and band students and a tiered-seating center for special events. The work is part of districtwide projects, including junior high and high school additions and renovations, and two new elementary schools.

Community members contributed almost $2 million, with $1 million coming from the estate of Freddie Fischer and more than $850,000 from the now disbanded Cuero-DeWitt Community Center Development Corp., which raised the money over decades from the community Christmas lighting ceremony downtown.

Some volunteers from the annual lighting ceremony are not alive, but they will be remembered, said Jim Haley, superintendent of Cuero schools.

“It’s going to be as much a community building as it is a school center,” Haley said.

School functions will take priority, though, he said, such as graduation ceremonies, choir and band performances, UIL competitions, guest speakers and more.

“We would do things to make that building self-sustaining,” he said.

Trisha Priest, a 1974 Cuero High graduate, said anything the district does to develop the campus is a positive step.

“When I was going to school, there wasn’t that much there,” she said, adding there were not many athletic opportunities for girls. “I think anything they add to the school is great.”

Honoring organizers

District leaders have discussed whether to name the center, but are considering another way to recognize collaborators, Haley said.

“The board is leaning toward doing some plaques and digital displays to honor those who helped build it,” he said.

An early form of recognition came for Cuero resident Janet Smith, who was a longtime supporter and promoter of a performing arts center. Although she was in a hospital, Cuero school board meeting minutes in December noted she would have been present for the board when it accepted the Cuero-DeWitt Community Center Development Corp.’s $850,000 and the Freddie Fischer estate’s $1 million donations, which only supports the construction of the center.

After the doors open

For the inaugural year of the center, Haley said he’d like to have an advisory committee and possibly a person who would focus on event planning.

“We feel we need to start out a year in advance,” he said.

Priest said focusing on the performing arts might create opportunities for students who aren’t athletic. “Not everybody can do sports.”