Anticipation is mounting for the long-awaited opening of the Northshore Performing Arts Center at Bothell High School. After 10 years of...

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Anticipation is mounting for the long-awaited opening of the Northshore Performing Arts Center at Bothell High School. After 10 years of planning and fund raising, the 600-seat theater is finally taking shape.

The state-of-the-art facility boasts acoustics and technology comparable to Meydenbauer Center in Bellevue. Even with rebar poking out in the gravelly courtyard, patches of plasterboard exposed inside and plastic covers over the plush seats, one can almost hear the Seattle Philharmonic’s music echoing off the dusty walls.

An expanded orchestra pit promises grand accompaniment to the dancers of the Olympic Ballet. Vaulted ceilings make way for visions of “Les Misérables” and “Grease” that will play across the stage.

These amenities were made possible by a partnership between the Northshore School District and a local volunteer organization, the Northshore Performing Arts Center Foundation (NPAC).

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The two groups agreed in 2003 to jointly build and share the $5 million center that is touted as a venue for students and professional performance groups from Bothell, Woodinville, Mill Creek and Kenmore.

When it opens in January, it will be the first of its size in the school district, which includes 32 schools. So far, the Seattle Philharmonic Orchestra and Olympic Ballet have both booked performances for March.

“We will have a first-class facility right in our own back yard,” said Leslie Foley, NPAC volunteer.

Northshore Performing Arts Center

For more information about NPAC, or to purchase a seat or donate funds, visit the NPAC Foundation’s Web site or call its headquarters.

Web site:

Phone: 425-489-6018

Seating priority: Prices range from $500 to $3,000

More than a decade ago, the foundation set a goal to find a home for arts groups in the area. When its president, Neil Larson, learned of Bothell High’s plans to use money from a 2002 school bond to build a basic theater, he jumped at the opportunity to participate.

Such a center is much needed in the community, he said. The next largest theater at Woodinville High School has about half the seating capacity. And because of its size and location, a school district study estimated that 650,000 people could drive to Bothell to watch performances.

The theater itself is unique; different from the high-school auditorium Bothell High students used for performances. Future audiences can expect more interactive shows that the stage’s wings enable, and advanced lighting techniques.

NPAC has raised more than $600,000 through fund-raisers, including a vintage fashion show at Inglewood Golf Club that brought in $70,000. In an effort to raise the remaining $900,000, the foundation is selling seats in the theater. Buyers will be recognized with a gold nameplate and seating priority.

The money from the foundation will allow for a snazzier venue than the school would otherwise have been able to afford. It also means bigger, better plays and concerts.

And for Norma Stoutenburg, long-time Bothell resident and NPAC director of fund raising, it will fulfill her husband’s dying wish.

John Stoutenburg dreamed of a performing-arts venue for his community. He spent years as one of the first members of the NPAC steering committee, searching relentlessly for a location for the theater until 2001 when he became ill with cancer.

” ‘I’m not going to be able to see this dream come true; will you continue it,’ he said to me. And I promised I would,” said Norma Stoutenburg. “He passed away in December of 2002, but it’s given me a real drive and purpose to get the job done.”

The 79-year-old retired businesswoman toured the theater yesterday for the first time, along with the media and Sen. Rosemary McAuliffe, D-Bothell, Rep. Mark Ericks, D-Bothell, and Rep. Al O’Brien, D-Mountlake Terrace, who were key in securing $1 million for the project from the State Legislature.

Stoutenburg said she can’t wait for the moment her favorite play, “The Phantom of the Opera,” comes to life. Then she can sit in the front-row seat she purchased, next to the one for her husband.

“Somehow it seems that the arts satisfies a need of the soul, your values and hopes for the future,” she said. “It’s a gift not only to our generation, but for generations to come.”

Lara Bain: 206-464-2112 or