$5 million ‘long awaited’ high school auditorium breaks ground

A morning shower cleared just in time for Knoxville Catholic High School and donors, staff and other supporters to break ground on its long-awaited $5 million St. Gregory the Great Auditorium at the school, 9245 Fox Lonas Road near Cedar Bluff Road late Monday morning, Feb. 22.

“This (auditorium project) has been in progress for 15 years,” Bishop Richard F. Stika of the Diocese of Knoxville said just before the ceremonial groundbreaking.

”This is a exciting time,” KCHS president Dickie Sompayrac said.

“The best-in-class auditorium will greatly enhance Catholic’s rapidly growing band, theater, choral, digital media, dance and fine arts programs,” a press release stated from Pam Rhoades, KCHS director of marketing and communications. “Construction will begin in March with anticipated completion in December 2021.”

Designed by Johnson Architecture Inc., the release stated the new auditorium will encompass 13,500 square feet and feature 375 seats, a 1,385-square-foot wide-by 40-foot-deep stage, an audio-video production suite, 4,000-square-foot lobby, 871-square-foot green room, full theatrical lighting and will be fully handicap accessible.

“This day’s been a long time coming here for Knoxville Catholic High School,” Sompayrac said following the much-anticipated ceremony.

Father Chris Michelson, KCHS Board of Trustees chairman, added, “We were hoping to do (the groundbreaking) a year ago because that was our 20th anniversary.

However, “We finally got to this day.”

“When the school moved a little over 20 years ago (from its Magnolia Avenue campus) to this campus, it was part of the master plan to add an auditorium; so this has been a dream for the school for a long time,” Sompayrac said. “The school’s never had an auditorium onsite, so we’re just tickled to death.”

The KCHS president said fundraising for the project began about a year-and-a-half ago.

“We had some donors step up,” he said. “We’re still fundraising. This building’s going to cost us $5 million. We’ve raised just over $4 million right now, so we’re well on our way — but we’ve still got a way to go to finish it up.

“Bishop (Stika), thankfully, has given us permission to proceed. We hope to have a dedication in December 2021,” Sompayrac added.

“I think it’s great,” campaign chairman Mike Connor, also CEO of Connors Steak & Seafood in Turkey Creek, said about the groundbreaking.

“We both went to Knoxville Catholic High School when it was on Magnolia Avenue,” he said, referring to him and his wife, Carol, and noting his children also attended KCHS.

“We were involved when they first decided they were going to do something up here (off Cedar Bluff),” Connor said. “To think now that we’ve got something that’s so nice and has so many great opportunities for the students,” “And, now, with the auditorium … it makes you really proud the way we’ve been able to progress the whole time,” he added. “We’re proud of how Dickie’s done and the (school’s academics.”

Others who attended the event included Dorman Blaine, retired from Blaine Construction but consulted on the project; 5th District Knox County Commissioner John Schoonmaker, Joni Punch, KCHS director of institutional advancement; Dr. Sedonna Prater, superintendent of the Diocese of Knoxville Catholic Schools; John Faris, auditorium campaign chairman; Bob Petrone, campaign chairman; Daryl Johnson and Jeff Williams with Johnson Architecture Inc.; and Ron Perfetto, Rouse Construction.