Recently the residents of the Napoleon Area Schools voted to work with the Ohio School Facilities Commission to build a new elementary and middle school. The architect’s plans include the demolition of the John L. Johnson Auditorium with the rest of the Central complex. It will be replaced at the new site with a gymnatorium, a shared facility between athletics and the performing arts. Problems of scheduling, sound, lighting, and inadequate seating for larger musical productions will result. Large scale musicals, such as this year’s “Beauty and the Beast”, will cease. It will also have limited availability, because of its multi-faceted use, for community musical and dance groups. The residents of Napoleon and the communities of Henry County need a proper auditorium.
  • Cost of new theater attached to new construction: $4.75 million. A monetary commitment is due in 9 months.
  • Cost of renovation of John L. Johnson Auditorium: approximately $3.1 million with 3 years to raise funds.

Renovation of John L. Johnson will provide an artistic performance space for the school district and community. An agreement for facility usage would need to be worked out with the district and city, or whoever takes over the area.

    The old high school portion of the building has to go. It has deteriorated far beyond trying to salvage/restore. However, after it is gone perhaps an outdoor ampitheatre could be built against the eastern side of the John L. Johnson.
    It would help to shore up the east side of the auditorium. It would visually and esthetically be appealing, especially from the street(s) and Route 424.

    Outdoor concerts and events could be held there . There would be more than ample parking. Bands, vocal groups, theatrical presentations could held. Festivals. Street Fairs. A large screen area would allow for family movie nights. People could gather on the hillside with blankets and lawn chairs also.

    Materials and elements could be salvaged from the demolition of the old high school and incorporated into the design. Front facade elements from the old could be used in the new construction to match the facade of the John L. Johnson.

    It would have have a shell or canopy to help project the sound and be a nice setting to frame presentations. Like the amphitheatre at the Toledo Zoo.
Very large crowds could gather there and not conflict with the business district traffic. Yet it would bring the people to the downtown. Professional and semi-professional groups could be brought in to add to the cultural aspects of our community.

A thought (and a dream)

Ken Neuenschwander