“Thank you, community, for making this a reality,” proclaimed Cotati-Rohnert Park Interim School Superintendent Tony Roehrick as he kicked off the official opening of the Theater Arts Gymnasium Building celebration at Rancho Cotate High School. The half dozen speakers who followed him echoed his words. If ever a plaque is attached to this state-of-the-art building to honor those who made it possible, the words should celebrate the community who passed three bonds to make such a facility possible.
In 1990, an $80m bond was passed with ten projects in mind. Two of the projects would include building a new gym and also erecting a theater arts building. Other ideas and changed priorities put these two projects on hold for 25 years. Two more bonds, passed in 2014 and 2016, allowed these projects to be consolidated into one large building, the largest of its kind in Northern California.
On Sat., Apr. 27, the members of the community gathered in the Henry J. Sarlatte Gymnasium to celebrate the completion of the project. Fifteen minutes before the official ceremonies began, celebrants entered the main lobby that accesses both the new theater and the gym. Students from Rancho Cotate’s Leadership Class greeted visitors with facts about the new structure. Ninth grader Gabby Schenone revealed, “This whole building cost $51m and the terrazzo floor won’t shatter.” Not to be outdone, Jordan Beasley, sophomore, added, “Mr. Dawes’ film studio and classroom cost about $1m.”
And the facts just kept on coming. “Glass in the gym is fire resistant which makes it look a little wonky,” offered freshman Emily Callahan. Another, Emily Voebel, delivered the injury report: “During construction there were only three minor injuries and no major injuries.” Tate Heintz added specifics: “There was one pulled muscle and one small eye problem and some guy wearing a harness fell six feet but wasn’t hurt.”
More facts to save for the fifty-year anniversary of the TAG Building trivia quiz were given by students Eduardo Romero and Allen Ergenbright. The building consists of twelve million pounds of steel and measures 75,000 square feet. Forty sub-contractors were hired, $2.5m was spent per month during the 21 months of construction, an average of 100 people worked daily on the project and 5,000 yards of concrete was poured.
Superintendent Roehrick, after thanking the community, praised other dignitaries, including school board members and city council members. Roehrick ended his speech by again praising the community as he said, “Thanks, everyone for making this day possible.” And then he handed a gigantic pair of scissors to School Board President Leffler Brown who cut a large red ribbon that extended across the stage.
At this point, 2019-2020 Student Body President Alexis Nelson presided over the ceremonies. Her words followed the theme of thanking the community. Then she introduced Rancho Cotate Principal Louis Ganzler who continued the theme of gratefulness to the community.
Ganzler welcomed everyone as he said, “Most of all, you, the community that supported it (the building of TAG).” The principal reminded everyone as they experienced the new building that all felt a “sense of awe, respect and wonder. But size alone does not explain it.” These feelings focus on possibility for students as he envisioned “purpose and promise to awaken creativity that lies within.” In other words, primarily the TAG Building is an educational facility latent with potential to stimulate learning, creativity and human development.
Concluding his speech, Ganzler returned to the day’s theme of gratitude to the citizens of Cotati and Rohnert Park. With a focus on academics, he stated, “There is no better use of money than to invest in children. Thank you, community, for making this happen.”
Several speakers followed, all acknowledging appreciation of the community. Two students said it best, former Student Trustee Nafe Nafe and current Student Trustee Emilia Torres. Torres saw the building as both functional and symbolic as she said, “I thank the residents of Cotati and Rohnert Park who have produced this building that will help to instill a sense of pride in our student community.” Nafe echoed her thoughts, “Thank you to the voters of Rohnert Park and Cotati who made this project possible.”
Superintendent Roehrick returned to the podium to bring the celebration to its high point dedicating the gym to former Rancho Cotate teacher and Athletic Director Henry J. Sarlatte. Roehrick announced that the school board approved the naming of the gym in March and that State Senator William H. Dodd signed a resolution honoring Sarlatte that Roehrick then presented to the Sarlatte family.
Henri Sarlatte, Rancho Cotate Assistant Principal, spoke on behalf of the family reflecting on his father’s accomplishments and how his father remains a guiding force for so many to this day. Sarlatte concluded his speech by saying “Thank you, community, for making this building happen.”
Alexis Nelson closed the official ceremony by inviting the several hundred guests to take student led tours through the new building. She offered a special invitation to attend a performance of the Rancho Cotate Concert Choir in the new theater. The choir sang inspirational songs of success such as “I Did It All” and “Don’t Stop Believing.”
In the words of Principal Ganzler, the many guests wandered the halls with “awe and respect and wonder.” Every room presented amazing things and incredible offerings: a professional make up room, a film study and editing place, a huge weight room filled with the tools for the complete workout, a set building room, a dance classroom with wall mirrors and a floor that will be easy on the dancers, coaches’ rooms, an acoustically devised band room, computer rooms and a terrace that overlooks the athletic fields.
It’s a small wonder that so many people are so grateful for the Cotati and Rohnert Park community for making this dream facility a reality.