Thanks to the realization of a 41-year-old dream, Dos Pueblos High School’s performing arts students now have a space to call their own.

“This is a great day to be a principal at Dos Pueblos High School,” said Mark Swanitz, as he welcomed students, teachers and visitors to the newly-opened performing arts center at Dos Pueblos. He was joined by many other speakers who were in on the effort to build a theater at DP, including Board of Education President Nancy Harter, Santa Barbara School District Superintendent Brian Sarvis, DP staff and teachers.

The $13 million complex, a state-of-the-art structure, was little more than a huge mound of dirt and metal scaffolding a couple of years ago.  Now it’s a 750-seat theater and teaching station, with four classrooms, dressing rooms and lobby.

It’s a far cry from the 150-seat converted classroom that passed for performance space at Dos Pueblos, a point that was not lost on the theater students that made fun of the tight squeeze in a skit, nor on the music students.

“The strings on my violin were not the only thing my bow hit.” said Blake Bainou, a violinist in his senior year at DP, on a recent production of “Kiss Me, Kate,” in the Little Charger Theater.

When the school was built in 1966, lack of funds prevented construction of a theater, a condition that had students and teachers making do with what they had, including rehearsing and performing in cramped quarters or off-campus.

“It’s a testament (to the school) that the performing arts programs have thrived as they have,” said Swanitz.

In October of 1999, the Santa Barbara School District’s Board of Education adopted a resolution to place on ballot a bond measure for $67 million.  The money generated by Measure V would go towards repairing and upgrading school facilities. The measure passed in March 2000, paving the way for Dos Pueblos’ push to get an auditorium on the ground.

The following years were a series of drawn and re-drawn plans, consultations with the future users of the facility, designs with the latest professional-grade technology and construction, all the while maintaining regular classes and simultaneous improvements to other parts of the campus.

For Superintendent Sarvis, the push wasn’t over yet: The building still needs a canopy over the front entrance, he said.

“Have you seen the price of a new grand piano lately? We need one. We need amplifiers, we need a band shell to create that fine optimal professional sound, we need a drumset and we need music stands.”

Canopy or no, the community at Tuesday’s ribbon cutting were excited to see decades’ worth of effort come to fruition.

“I wouldn’t miss this for the world,” said Goleta Mayor Jean Blois, whose children went to Dos Pueblos.

Ike Jenkins, former DP Jazz Choir director, remembered his days as a performing arts teacher at DP.

“We were the only ones without our own theater,” he said. “We always had to go to some other place. Now these kids have a place to make their own, and they can bring in other musicians and actors. I just get a tingle when I see this.”

But probably the happiest people that day were the performers — students such as jazz band drummer Sarah Mori. Not only would she not have to haul her drum kit from place to place anymore, she also wouldn’t have to back off on her playing to conform to a small room.

“It’s great,” she said at the end of the jazz band’s performance. “I get to play out a little more and feel the space.”