The future of the Buffalo Grove Community Arts Center includes a grand auditorium theater, dance studios, a cooking class space and several art rooms.

With the Buffalo Grove Community Arts Center's temporary theater space opening soon, park district officials are now trying to raise funds for the new facility's expansion.

The Buffalo Grove Park District bought the former Congregation Beth Am synagogue at 225 N. McHenry Road in the fall of 2012.

Beth Am stayed in the property through the Jewish High Holy Days and the park district has been renovating the 37,000-square-foot building since September 2013.

So far, some interior and exterior work has been done, in addition to the construction of the interim theater space.

"It may look the same. It certainly feels the same, but a lot of things have been happening here," said Dan Schimmel, the park district's executive director.

The 339-seat temporary theater cost about $400,000 and will open May 31 with summer camps starting in June and a production of "Shrek" in July.

In many ways, it is more like a large multi-purpose room than a state-of-the-art theater space that the park district eventually wants to build.

The current seating area is spread across one level, which officials said will cause sight-line issues.

But the space is good enough for now because it is what the park district could immediately afford after it spent $3.7 million from its reserves fund to buy the building, Schimmel said.

The park district currently doesn't have enough of its own facilities to accommodate plays and performances. Instead, it competes for time in school building spaces while its art program participation grows.

Plans for a permanent, 400-seat theater and auditorium with more modern amenities – tiered seating, multi-levels, upgraded backstage areas – will cost about $5 million. When that may be built will depend on funding.

"We weren't certain we'd be able to (immediately) fundraise $4 million or $5 million," Schimmel said of building the interim theater.

The park district said it thinks it can raise about 20 percent of the $9 million needed for all of the art center's improvements. The other upgrades include exterior and parking, three dance studios, art classrooms and a black box theater.

A $1 million donation campaign to jump start the art center's future has been launched through the park district's website and outside grants are also being sought.

"There have been talks with other agencies. I don't know that they are ready to commit to anything," Schimmel said.

saho@tribune.com