DIXON – The Dixon City Council made a consensus to donate $75,000 to the Dixon Historic Theatre and is asking the Dixon School Board to pitch in $25,000.
Jessica Dempsey, chairperson of the theater board, approached the council last month asking for $100,000 to go toward events as the theater continues to work to be more sustainable and is undergoing structural improvements.
[ Dixon Historic Theatre seeking another $100,000 from city ]
Council members wanted more information on theater plans and operations as the city has donated $300,000 for events in the last two years as well as $100,000 toward a grant the theater won that will cover extensive repairs.
For the 2021-22 season, the theater sold 9,673 tickets bringing in $297,943 with a total revenue of $311,943 including concessions, according to theater data requested by the council and presented by council member Mary Oros during a recent city budget meeting.
Total attendance was 14,780 people for ticketed and free events. Expenses totaled about $234,000 including operating costs and salaries.
Oros said they should give the theater a fighting chance but also set expectations for the funds. They also need to “recognize the benefit we as a community reap from that institution being there.”
The goal for the last several years has been to make the theater a cultural anchor for the region and tourist attraction for the city, bringing in additional sales tax revenue and customers for restaurants and other businesses.
The theater wants one more “good year” with a cash injection from the city, and Mayor Li Arellano Jr. said there are a lot of opportunities for the theater to work with other organizations.
With the children’s theater program that started in 2021 and the benefits the youth and schools receive from that, it would make sense for the school district to help out and donate $25,000, Arellano said.
“I think getting the schools involved would be a key move,” he said. “It would be far more effective, quite frankly, than just the city trying to do it alone.”
Council members Mike Venier and Dennis Considine said they should fully fund the $100,000 request and be proud of the work done at the theater.
Council member Chris Bishop was in favor of the $75,000 and said the theater will be doing better with generating revenue after it receives a liquor license.
The consensus was to allocate $75,000 and make a formal resolution asking the school district to also provide funds.
In August, the century-old theater won a $1.2 million federal Economic Development Administration grant for structural improvements to the facility. The grant is funded by the American Rescue Plan Act.
Funds will go toward a new roof, tuckpointing with the exterior, windows, lighting and other improvements.
The grant requires $300,000 in matching funds, and both the City Council and Lee County Board previously agreed to give the theater $100,000. The remaining $100,000 comes from the theater’s community fundraising campaign.
Theater manager Scott Fattizzi said drawings for the renovations are being finalized, and they should be bidding the work soon.
Improvements also will include addressing water leaks in different areas, drainage on the side of the building with Peace Park, making restrooms more accessible, replacing the front doors and storefront windows, painting the auditorium and lobby, and adding seating with the goal to increase capacity to about 1,000 people. The current capacity is 915.
Crews will be able to work around some of the events, but construction will take up most of the season running from mid-June to October.
They will be adding features “bringing back the 1920s feel” to the theater, he said.