By Molly • Molly Walker • 

Cultural center completes ballroom renovation

In the process, it has turned the former gym into the Ken and Joan Austin Ballroom at a cost of $1.1 million. To celebrate, the center plans a grand opening for the 5,200-square-foot facility for 3 to 9 p.m. Friday, Aug. 15.

Programming Coordinator Caleb Thurston said the ballroom is capable of seating 300 for banquets and 500 for conferences. He said a new lobby has been created at the rear, offering good access from the back parking lot.

“It really expands the capacity of what we can do in this building,” Thurston said.

The ceiling features contemporary lighting and accents of repurposed wood from the original school, serving both as artistic and acoustic attributes. The back entrance was enhanced with a garage-style roll up door for easy access.

The design work was done by architect Scott Edwards. He has worked with the center from the outset, lending a measure of consistency.

Thurston said interest is already running high. A wedding was held in the ballroom last Saturday, and several big community events have been booked.

A capital campaign was launched in 2011 to fund continuing additions and improvements as the center develops. And the Austins, who own and operate A-dec, Newberg’s largest employer, have been major contributors.

Thurston said the support has not been limited to Ken and his late wife, either. He said the children have also stepped up.

“It’s a testament to the whole family,” he said.

Thurston said the center is something the whole community can rally around.

“It makes sense, economically, especially for downtown,” he said. “We see this as a huge economical opportunity for the community.”

In the next phase, Thurston said, the focus will be on the upstairs. Supporters are  envisioning a 250-seat auditorium and a set of classrooms.

They also want to add a commercial kitchen downstairs, next to the ballroom. They are planning completion by 2020, which gives them a realistic six years.

Restoring a school building dating back to 1935 is more expensive and challenging than starting from scratch, Thurston acknowledged. But he said, “We think it’s worth it.”


  • What: Grand opening of the Ken and Joan Austin Ballroom
  • When: 3 to 9 p.m. Friday, Aug. 15
  • Where: Chehalem Cultural Center, 415 E. Sheridan St. in Newberg
  • Event schedule: 3 p.m., Young Mariachi Project; 3:30 p.m., Prime Time Singers; 4 p.m., Myron LeRoy; 5 p.m., Newberg Community Band; 6 p.m., presentation, with wine and cake; 6:30 p.m., Gil Reynolds and the Deep Blue Band; throughout, food offered for sale by Rogue Catering, Diva Dog’s Cafe and Pogy’s Subs
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