The group went back to the drawing board to figure out how to make the project more affordable without substantially changing the design, she said.
The cost was originally projected at about $408,000, then revised to around $700,000 before it was put out to bid early last year, Stewart said.
The lowest bid came in at $1.27 million, she said.
Cutting out some high-ticket items like a full basement, a foam sprinkler system and a sewage pump station, they were able to bring the price down to about $450,000 for the first phase - including the stage building and theater infrastructure, Stewart said.
Two subsequent construction phases will add a rear building to house a concession stand, restrooms, projection and storage areas and 508 seats, she said.
The revised plan is awaiting state approval, said Stewart, who expects the HJC Board of Trustees will be able to choose a contractor for the project at its May meeting.
The cost of the first phase, which will take about six months, already has been covered, she said.
About $500,000 - including $200,000 from alumni funds and $250,000 in state money - has been raised for the project, Stewart said.
The cost of the second building is estimated at about $100,000, she said.
The school had planned to use its brand-new outdoor theater - conceived of as a "mini-Wolf Trap" with total seating for 1,500 - as part of its 50th anniversary celebration last September, she said.
The amphitheater project has been in the planning stages since 1991, when a group of association members started talking about the idea during a planning session for the college's 50th anniversary, Stewart said.
"At first, we were talking about a slab and some seats, and it kind of grew and grew and grew. It almost grew too much," said Stewart, who said the original plan for the college included an amphitheater.
The steel and block theater was designed to blend in with its wooded surroundings, said Stewart.
"One of the goals is to keep it so you feel like you're in nature," she said.