mcclaren hall stage
Jan 28, 2023
NBC Montana

Wachholz College Center Designed To Meet FVCC Student and Community Needs

By Kevin Maki

Flathead Valley Community College in Kalispell is celebrating the opening of the Paul D. Wachholz College Center on campus.

The new multi-use Performing Arts Center and Activity Complex has been in the works for years.

Now, it's reality.

The college gave NBC Montana a tour of the building and its grounds.

The center is a 58,000 square-foot state-of-the art facility, with sweeping views of the Kalispell valley.

It's designed to meet the needs of both FVCC students and Montana as a whole.

“With the growth we've seen (in Kalispell)," said Wachholz Center Director, Matt Laughlin, "I think this valley is very ready for it.”

“This facility was fully funded by donations," he said. "The Flathead Valley said we want a venue like this."

It's named for Kalispell businessman and philanthropist Paul D. Wachholz, who jump started the project with his own large donation.

The spacious reception area is a venue for college and community events.

McClaren Hall is a 1,114-seat Performing Arts Center.

Laughlin said it's the largest performing arts center in Northwestern Montana.

“Having a venue like this," he said, "allows us to bring nationally known tours and concerts that might be hitting Spokane, Missoula, Calgary to the north to our own backyard.”

The Wanda Hollensteiner Art Gallery opens the college to major art exhibitions.

When the snow leaves, and the weather gets warmer, the O'Shaughnessy Outdoor Amphitheatre will be a venue for Shakespeare in the Park, outdoor concerts and other activities.

Flathead Valley Community College students now have their first gymnasium and activity center.

Laughlin opened a metal gate to show us a new fitness center.

We were given a look into the Swank Recital Hall, where a young woman played for us on a baby grand piano.

The Center's total cost is about $28 million.

Laughlin said there is still a fundraising campaign to bring in the last few million dollars.

He said the center is off to a good start.

“The next step I’d say is just enhancing the programming," he said, " and continuing to bring in the types of lectures, concerts, dance events that this community wants to see."

It's all an effort to fold FVCC more into the community it serves, blending the students and their activities with the community.