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Every dollar counts for the Avalon Theatre in Grand Junction

Avalon Cornerstone Project development director Robin Brown seen on the stage of the Avalon Theatre, which is currently under construction.
Caitlin Row / crow@gjfreepress.com | Free Press

WANT TO DONATE?

To donate to the Avalon Cornerstone Project online, visit http://www.avalontheatrefoundation.org.

To drop off donations of cash and checks, head to the Downtown Development Authority building front desk: 248 S. 4th St., in downtown Grand Junction.

Or mail it: Avalon Cornerstone Project, P.O. Box 2243, Grand Junction, CO 81502.

When Robin Brown’s 7-year-old son, Hank, hand delivered $7 in quarters to her a few weeks ago, wrapped in paper like a present, it brought tears to her eyes.

“It was his Lego money,” she explained.

The gift came after Hank asked Brown to explain her job as development director for downtown Grand Junction’s Avalon Theatre upgrade. Brown told Hank that people gave money to fix the Avalon because they cared about it, and he took her message of community generosity to heart.



“He sacrificed his Legos for the Avalon,” Brown said with a smile. “He really loves going to movies. I’m a proud mom.”

Hank is not the only one who recently donated money to fix up Main Street’s historic performing arts center. There are currently 300 donors in the Avalon Cornerstone Project’s private donor database, and that number continues to grow.



A COMMUNITY PROJECT

Construction on the Avalon Theatre kicked off in late June 2013, and fundraising by Brown and the Avalon Theatre Foundation has been ongoing. The Avalon is a city owned building on Main Street, and the performing arts center needed significant safety and Americans with Disabilities Act upgrades to continue operations.

“We are adding all the things the building never had when it was built in 1922,” Brown said. “It was largely unchanged until now.”

Funding the pricey Avalon upgrade is presently a three-pronged effort between the city of Grand Junction, the Downtown Development Authority, and the private sector. The city committed about $3 million to address structural issues with the old building. Another $3 million was given by the DDA, an equal partner in the upgrade.

Including a $1 million grant recently awarded by the Colorado Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) Energy and Mineral Impact Assistance Program, a little more than $2 million has come from outside resources so far.

According to Brown, the DOLA grant delivers a substantial message to naysayers regarding the necessity of the construction effort.

The Avalon Theatre upgrade is “a feel-good project, but DOLA gave us $1 million because (the project) is an economic driver that will bring more people to the community and increase sales tax revenue” for the city, Brown said. “This just reinforces how important this project is (to Grand Junction), and why it’s important to invest in your community when times are hard.”

An improved Avalon will make it easier to recruit businesses to the Grand Valley, “and more cultural opportunities will make Grand Junction a well-rounded destination,” she continued. “It adds to the livability of the Western Slope.”

According to Grand Junction Visitor and Convention Bureau Spokeswoman Mistalynn Meyeraan, the Avalon Theatre is an important attraction to Grand Junction in 2014 “because it’s something new, large and exciting. It will draw a lot of attention to the area, which will hopefully catch the eye of visitors and encourage folks to come back.”

An improved performing arts center on the Western Slope of Colorado will also draw bigger acts, Meyeraan said. Big events, in turn, are “very important for drawing crowds and overnight visitation.”

Before the DOLA grant, the Avalon upgrade was priced at $7.6 million, including an unfinished addition shell. Now Brown is working hard to fund a completed addition, which bumps the project up to about $8.5 million.

The city of Grand Junction is currently in talks with FCI, the local contractor, to re-bid the remaining aspects of the project, including the full addition and the roof-top terrace. The finished performing arts center will boast improved acoustics, expanded seating, more event space, digital movie projection technology, an elevator, improved air conditioning and heat, along with expanded patron amenities like more concession stands and bathrooms.

“We still need around $500,000 to finish the addition, and more to do the roof-top terrace,” Brown said. “Nothing is written in stone yet; that’s what we’re guessing.”

“We hope to have those (hard) numbers in the next 10 days.”

With current funds in hand, the theater area should be finished in June 2014, while FCI continues to work on the glass-faced addition containing an elevator, bathrooms and a community multi-purpose room (which will allow multiple bookings for the Avalon on the same date). Movies at the Avalon will likely commence before other activities and performances start.

“Bookings for the Avalon Theatre will likely start in February,” Brown added. “Everyone wants opening night.”

FUNDING STILL NEEDED

To facilitate the remainder of the Avalon upgrade, a big fundraising campaign will kick off in mid-January for three months. Called “Take Your Seat,” its message is that every dollar counts.

It includes all naming opportunities for the Avalon Theatre, including both lobbies, the theater space, concessions, the multi-purpose room and the roof-top terrace to name a few. Plus, naming of seats will go for $1,000 a chair.

The campaign will also ask all residents of the Grand Valley to chip in any amount possible.

“We need the support of the entire community,” Brown said. “No amount is too small.”

For more information on how to donate to the Avalon Cornerstone Project, visit http://www.avalontheatrefoundation.org.


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