Franklin Special School District Celebrates New Gym and Performing Arts Center

FSSD Performing Arts Center
photo by Donna Vissman

Franklin Special School District (FSSD) announced Friday the completion of the new Poplar Grove Elementary School gym and the Franklin Special School District Performing Arts Center (PAC). To celebrate the grand openings of both facilities, the district hosted two ribbon-cutting ceremonies on Friday, May 20, 2022.

Staff, students, school board members and community members attended the gym and performing arts center’s ribbon-cutting ceremonies and had an opportunity to tour both facilities following each event. As part of the PAC celebration, a stone engraved logo was revealed on the building façade and the FSSD Legacy Gallery, a 650-square-foot, curated installation that celebrates the history of the school district since its inception in 1906, was opened.

For years, Poplar Grove Elementary and Poplar Grove Middle shared a gym, which caused scheduling challenges and created the need for an alternate space to hold physical education classes, sporting events, and large school gatherings. The elementary school’s new gym includes a full-size basketball court, two cross-court practice courts, a volleyball court, four-square courts, and 480 seats for students and spectators. Additionally, the gym features a concession stand, multiple locker rooms, teacher offices and a multipurpose room that doubles as a storm shelter.

“Our goal was to make use of the space easier and more seamless between the two schools,” said Dr. Alisha Erickson, Principal of Poplar Grove Elementary. “The new gym will provide Poplar Grove Elementary the necessary space for daily PE classes, in addition to the capacity for sporting practices and events. We know what a huge benefit this space will be to the health and happiness of our students.”

The opening of the Franklin Special School District Performing Arts Center also marks a milestone for the district. The FSSD PAC is a 34,400-square-foot facility that seats 490 people. Seating surrounds a thrust stage, which extends into the audience on three sides, with a 120-square-foot proscenium. The stage is equipped with a full 49-foot fly loft accessible by catwalks. The PAC also features dressing rooms, pre-performance spaces and prop rooms along with a building workshop, concessions stand, ticket booth, and the Legacy Gallery.

“The Franklin Special School District places an intentional focus on educating the whole child. That means that we believe the fine arts are not only necessary but are a critical component of student learning,” said Dr. David Snowden, Director of Schools. “The new performing arts center will be open to all students, and its use will expand and enhance the exceptional programs that are a part of every school in the district. We look forward to this state-of-the-art facility providing students and community members with a meaningful way to participate in the arts.”

The PAC was designed to showcase the seasonal school plays, holiday musicals and graduation ceremonies for all eight FSSD schools. Once fully operational and the school event schedule is set, it will also be accessible to the community and can be rented by the public for special events.


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Wold | HFR Design served as the architect and Nabholz Construction served as the construction manager for both projects.

“We’re proud to celebrate another successful project with Franklin Special School District and look forward to seeing the positive impact of these new facilities on students, educators and the community,” said Stephen Griffin, AIA, Principal at Wold | HFR Design. “As a national firm with a 100+ year legacy in Middle Tennessee, we’re particularly proud of the projects we design in the communities where we live and work, and it’s one of the many reasons we’re delighted to be part of these projects and celebrations.”

Poplar Grove Elementary School is located at 2959 Del Rio Pike, Franklin, TN 37069. The PAC is also located on the Poplar Grove campus.

About Franklin Special School District
The Franklin Special School District serves 3,200 PreK – 8th grade students in eight schools. Its boundaries encompass the greater Franklin, Tenn., area. The mission of the Franklin Special School District is to foster academic, social, emotional, physical, and creative development in each student; to instill a desire to continue learning; to nurture respect for all people; and to promote responsible citizenship. For more information, visit

About Wold | HFR Design
Wold | HFR Design is a national firm with a Tennessee legacy focused on providing thoughtful architecture and engineering that helps improve lives in communities across the Southeast and beyond. Founded as Hart Freeland Roberts more than 100 years ago, HFR Design joined Wold to expand both firms’ broad government, healthcare, senior living, and education portfolios under one entity. With local offices in Brentwood and Jackson Tenn., Wold | HFR Design strives to positively impact the lives of its clients and all who occupy the spaces it designs on their behalf. To learn more, please visit

About Nabholz Construction
Founded in 1949, Nabholz is now a multi-service contractor providing construction, industrial, excavation, specialty, environmental, and railroad services from its network of locations across Arkansas, Kansas, Oklahoma, Missouri, Mississippi, Tennessee, and Connecticut. For more information, visit