Construction Begins on O’Shaughnessy Center Expansion

Capital campaign to fund renovations receives large donations as project moves forward

By Molly Priddy
The front entrance to the O'Shaughnessy Center is seen on the north end of Central Avenue downtown Whitefish. - Lido Vizzutti | Flathead Beacon

The O’Shaughnessy Center in Whitefish is about to get a facelift and new life.

The $1.25 million capital campaign to expand the O’Shaughnessy Center in Whitefish received another major donation and broke ground on the new addition last week. And along with starting a construction project years in the making, the project’s third phase – updating the lobby – will also be completed ahead of schedule.

“Because of recent grants and donations that have come in, and working with our contractor, they found that it would be probably more efficient and save us money if we went ahead and did Phase 3,” Jen Asebrook of the Whitefish Theatre Company said.

WTC is the main tenant of the O’Shaughnessy Center, which was built after another major fundraising effort in 1998. Not only does the theater company rehearse and perform in the space, but other community and private events also take place there.

With so much demand for the building, WTC decided to pursue a new capital campaign in 2012 to build an addition on the back of the existing building, which will include the Carolyn Pitman Conference Room, two additional restrooms, and more storage space for costumes and stage necessities.

Phase 3 was supposed to take place after the addition was finished, Asebrook said, but folding the projects together made sense. It tackles the cramped lobby, expanding it and moving the door to give better flow for attendees.

Asebrook said the lobby should be revamped and finished in time for WTC’s first event of the fall, which will be the extremely popular “Dancing With Our Stars” on Sept. 25, during which six local community members will boogie down for a panel of judges and the audience.

The building addition is scheduled to be finished by December, Asebrook said, in time for the WTC winter production of “Mary Poppins.”

WTC is still collecting donations for the capital campaign, and received a $25,000 grant from BNSF Railway last week. Last winter, the campaign also received a $250,000 challenge grant from the M.J. Murdock Charitable Trust. Part of accepting the grant means finding matching funds, and Asebrook said $125,000 has already been matched.

The focus now is matching the second $125,000, she said.

“We are closing in on it, at least for that match. We’re probably within $40,000 to $50,000 of matching the entire grant,” Asebrook said. “It’s very exciting.”

The main goal of the expansion is to provide the community with a better resource for meetings and events, she said, and with that in mind, the conference room will likely have high-tech upgrades necessary for today’s communication.

There is also a large projector, which has been a popular feature, she said.

And the addition of a second “green room” allows for separate activities to occur at the same time, such as ballet or tap practice in one area and yoga in another. The theater company will also have more opportunity to actually use the building, since in the past it has had to find other rehearsal space when the O’Shaughnessy is rented out for an event.

“We’re just trying to make the facility as community-friendly as possible,” Asebrook said. “Unfortunately, we’ve had to turn down a lot of people (seeking to rent the space). We’re just trying to make it more and more flexible.”

For more information on the Whitefish Theatre Company and its capital campaign, visit www.whitefishtheatreco.org.

Stay Connected with the Daily Roundup.

Sign up for our newsletter and get the best of the Beacon delivered every day to your inbox.