Sauder Concert Hall was built with an emphasis on the details. Architects put in time to create a visually beautiful space that could support large shows, sound good and provide an intimate feel.But the details go beyond the obvious. If you look past the several seconds of reverberation, the maple stage and the soft hues of the colored LED lights, you can find another place that was designed with care: the bathrooms.
Shirley Showalter was the president of Goshen College from 1997-2004. Around the turn of the century, she hosted several donors in Colorado. The college had just finished raising money for the Recreation-Fitness Center, and the discussion turned to upcoming projects the college might pursue, specifically related to music.
The concert hall is named for Carolyn and Maynard Sauder. Carolyn remembers the meeting in Colorado well.
“Maynard, my husband, said, you know, if you all help, we can do it. So that was the beginning,” Sauder said. “And Shirley didn’t waste time.”
The Music Center opened in the fall of 2002 after much planning and consideration. At first, the plan was to keep the hall small and intimate, but, after some more thought, the decision was made to go a little bigger.
“We got to thinking, we wanted to have very wonderful groups coming, and that takes money,” Sauder said. “And so we needed more seats to sell, and the architects were able to still keep that intimate feeling and yet get more seats for people to come and enjoy the concerts.”
Beyond all that, though, there were less glamorous things being debated. Like bathroom size. Carolyn Sauder pushed for larger women’s bathrooms, and she got it. The women’s bathrooms in the music center are roughly twice as big as the men’s.
Marcia Yost, director of the arts (engagement and outreach), occasionally mentions this fact to prospective students as she shows them around.
“[Sauder] was so tired of going to concerts … where the women are standing in halls while the men breeze in and out,” Yost said. “So that was one of her stipulations.”
Venues typically allocate an equal amount of space for men’s and women’s restrooms, but men’s restrooms tend to use fewer stalls, allowing for more efficient use of space. For Sauder, the size of the women’s restroom wasn’t a throwaway request. This was important.
“That was something that I really felt strongly about, because when people come to the music center, it’s a special time and they want to make it a special day,” Sauder said. “The main thing is you don’t want to stand in line and keep your friends waiting … so we want to keep them comfortable and it really worked out well.”
And it has. Brody Thomas, the performance venue production manager, reflected on the efficiency of the facilities.
“Bathroom lines are never a thing that I think about,” Thomas said. “We haven’t had issues with long lines. I don’t remember even sold-out shows like Girl Named Tom or Wailin’ Jennys [having problems]. They’re full and people are using them.”
For Sauder, the relationship with the Music Center runs far deeper than restrooms.
“One of the blessings that we received is the joy of seeing [the hall] used so wonderfully,” Sauder said. “I wish I was closer to the concert hall because it’s such a blessing and I love music; it’s just a big joy.”
Sauder, who lives in Ohio, will be making the trip to Goshen this weekend for the 20th anniversary of A Festival of Carols, GC’s musical celebration of Christmas. She’s looking forward to it:
“It’s going to be wonderful.”