Performing Arts Center construction ‘still on schedule,’ set to open Fall 2021

View+from+the+South+side+of+the+new+Performing+Arts+Center.+Construction+has+been+underway+for+more+than+a+year+after+breaking+ground+on+Mar.+6.+

Edgar Mendoza

View from the South side of the new Performing Arts Center. Construction has been underway for more than a year after breaking ground on Mar. 6.

Daniel Suarez Jr.

Jackie Ortiz had just started her first semester at Cerritos College and she was already feeling terrified. Her Fundamentals of Acting professor just told the class that auditions for the next Spring play were officially open. Now the singer/songwriter reminisces on one of her earliest memories in the Burnight Center.

“It would be my first time to ever audition for a play, but my newly-found friends encouraged me to go,” said Ortiz, who would later find out that she got the part. “When we got into the audition room, I just let everything go and had fun with it.”

These memories from actors, musicians and faculty will be all that remains of the soon to be demolished Burnight Center, which provided several stages and recording studios to students for decades. The change comes as the new Performing Arts Center, Cerritos Colleges’ latest $80 million Measure G bond project, nears completion.

The construction site sits on the edge of Parking Lot 10, adjacent to the Fine Arts building and facing Falcon Square. The 84,000 sqft. building will be the new home for theater and music departments on campus, featuring a wide array of facilities for students. It offers a 400 seat auditorium, lecture halls, music labs, studios and smaller theaters with another stage outside the building.

“The old building has a special place in my heart. However it was run down with wear and tear,” said actor, student and Twitch streamer Daniel Galvez, “It had 2 very old stages, the pipes for the bathrooms and water were terrible and the dressing rooms weren’t great.”

The Burnight Center was supposed to finish out the Spring 2020 season before the campus closure cut it short during the break in March due to COVID-19.

“Even though the old theater will be missed, the new theater would have current and future theater students excited to perform there. It was time for an upgrade. So this is a huge win for the theater program”

According to the College’s website, the Performing Arts Center was designed by the American architecture firm, Pfiffer, and constructed by Tilden-Coil. It’s built with the intention to create a state of the art learning environment for students and to “serve to enhance the college’s mission to support and enrich the arts on campus and within the region.”

Cerritos College has refunded bond projects in the past, and according to Vice President of Student Services and Assistant Superintendent Felipe Lopez, a bond refund this time around is a possibility that the school evaluates on an annual basis.

“We use a financial advisor to assist in identifying refunding opportunities. The District always strives to be good stewards over the taxpayer dollars and when opportunities arise, the District has successfully been able to save taxpayer dollars,” said Lopez via email.

Students in theater are not letting the lack of a stage stop them from entertaining audiences, which is why the program is presenting Homecoming: The Show Must Go Online. It’s a fully-online show via Zoom running multiple performances at the end of September and the beginning of October.

“It’s been a very new process but we’re getting better and better everyday!” says Cris Guerrero, who is one of the students cast in the online play, “It’s such a good escape during these times.”