Grand Junction’s Avalon Theatre opens Sept. 17 | PostIndependent.com

Grand Junction’s Avalon Theatre opens Sept. 17

Caitlin Row
crow@gjfreepress.com
The full Phase 1 buildout of Avalon Theatre cost funders $9.6 million.
Caitlin Row / crow@gjfreepress.com | Free Press

WANT TO CELEBRATE?

On Saturday, Sept. 20, Grand Junction’s newly improved Avalon Theatre will present a world-famous cellist, Lynn Harrell. He will join “the Grand Junction Symphony Orchestra for an all-Tchaikovsky program entitled Lynn Harrell at the Avalon,” an orchestra news release said.

Volunteers are also still needed for Avalon’s grand re-opening weekend — Sept. 26-28. Email moabdeb@yahoo.com for information.

Pick up next week’s Free Press for a full list of events going on during Avalon Theatre’s Grand Opening Community Celebration Weekend.

WANT TO DONATE?

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

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

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

After more than a year of construction and decades of planning, Grand Junction’s Avalon Theatre will open to the public on Wednesday, Sept. 17. Movies, community performances and tours are planned through next weekend.

“There is no doubt that a re-opened Avalon Theatre, with the enhancements brought about by the renovations, will be good for the community and good for business,” said Diane Schwenke, executive director of Grand Junction Chamber of Commerce. “It will be another tool in our toolbox for attracting out-of-town guests to visit and shop in Mesa County.”

Sam Sasuras, a Grand Junction councilor and former mayor, agreed, saying: “I think it’s great. I’m really happy for our downtown merchants. … The Avalon Theatre is back in business, and I think merchants and restaurants will receive benefit from that.”

Redevelopment of the largest performing arts center between Salt Lake City and Denver kicked off in June 2013, and fundraising has been ongoing. The 91-year-old Avalon Theatre is a city owned building on historic Main Street, and it needed significant safety and Americans with Disabilities Act upgrades to continue operations.

According to Robin Brown, Avalon Cornerstone Project’s development director, she’s hoping to raise another $300,000 or more through a final fundraiser, where individuals, families and businesses are able to purchase engraved pavers to be installed in the floor of Avalon’s new roof-top terrace (on top of the addition). Funds raised during the re-opening celebration will also be used to pay for construction.

With Brown at the helm, the Avalon Threatre Foundation has already raised $1.3 million (it’s hoping to raise $1.6 million).

“We’re still fundraising for items not in the scope of the original project,” Brown said, like the marquis, a movie projector for Encore Hall (the new multi-purpose room) and a curtain for Avalon Theatre’s main stage.

THE BACKSTORY

When Phase 1 of redevelopment was approved by Grand Junction City Council last year, it was OKed as a partial project (theater renovations, as well as the shell of an addition) to the tune of $7.6 million, with the option of upgrading to a full addition buildout if funding became available.

The initial project included new seats, expanded seating (from 967 to 1,100), ADA-accessibility upgrades, upgraded acoustics in the main theater, new digital technology for movie screenings, a better heating and cooling system, and more. Funding was initially a three-pronged effort between the City of Grand Junction, the Downtown Development Authority, and the private sector. The city committed approximately $3 million to address ADA upgrades for the old building. Another $3 million was given by the DDA, and Avalon Theatre Foundation committed to raise $1.1 million.

A full Phase 1 buildout was made possible when the city won a $1 million grant from Colorado Department of Local Affairs (DOLA) Energy and Mineral Impact Assistance Program, and the foundation reached its fundraising goals. City officials re-bid extras on the project, including completion of Avalon’s addition (which houses multiple floors, an elevator and a roof-top terrace). All said and done, Avalon’s first phase of development cost $9.6 million.

“I think folks are going to be really impressed by the improvements to the main auditorium — the expanded seating, the improved sight-lines, and the tremendous increases in comfort and quality,” DDA executive director Harry Weiss said. “Add in the new spaces in the expansion — the multi-purpose room, lobbies, and the spectacular roof-top terrace — and you can really see the opportunities for hosting a broader range of performing arts and special events downtown.”

Key players in the Avalon Cornerstone Project promote theater redevelopment as a way to expand Grand Junction’s cultural offerings and draw bigger entertainment acts to the area. It will also be run by Two Rivers Convention Center, another city owned and managed structure in downtown Grand Junction. A shared staff is meant to create improved economic function for both entities.

“I’m a big supporter of it,” said Bennett Boeschenstein, another Grand Junction City Council member. “What I really relate it to is Grand Junction becoming a world-class city. It’s not just the Avalon, but a lot of things we’ve done over last few years.”

Boeschenstein noted a variety of city investments over the last decade meant to improve quality of life for Grand Junction residents and visitors to the area — $8 million to upgrade Stoker Stadium and Suplizio Field, which resulted in Colorado Rockies’ Pioneer League baseball team moving to the area; $12 million to build a new police station and fire station; contribution of $1 million to Colorado Mesa University for seven straight years; on-going involvement in future redevelopment of North Avenue and Horizon Drive; plus road improvements that allowed both St. Mary’s Hospital and Community Hospital to expand services locally.

WHAT’S NEXT?

With Phase 1 construction finally complete, key players — including Grand Junction Symphony Orchestra — hope for another phase of theater redevelopment to expand Avalon’s stage and make backstage improvements.

According to Weiss, “the greater vision for the Avalon has always included an expanded stage area and additional support spaces for performances. Phase 1 was conceived as the platform upon which to build towards that future.”

Weiss suggests that the community first work to expand theater offerings to make the new facility as successful as possible. Once the performing arts center is “bursting at the seams,” then a Phase 2 project should be considered.

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


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