Burlington’s Capitol Theater seeks $2.5 million for performing arts center

Burlington Capitol Theater prepares to launch a $2.5 million fundraising campaign that aims to make Southeast Iowa a performing arts destination that will birth the next generations of comedians, musicians, singers, comedians and podcasters .

Money raised through the Dream Behind the Curtain campaign will go towards educational programming, renovations to the building’s second floor, equipment, a listening room and other improvements.

“We are removing the ‘theater’ from the Capitol and it will be the Capitol Performing Arts Center, where we would like to provide performing arts education not only to our community, but to the surrounding area,” said Capitol Theater Director, Tammy McCoy. Burlington City Council on Monday before asking the city to contribute $75,000 to the effort. “Our campaign is currently called Dream Behind the Curtain because we are really focused on encouraging creativity and making it possible to pursue careers in the performing arts.”

The request was well received by most board members and will be decided upon at their next meeting.

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The board could spread that money over five years, as McCoy originally suggested, potentially replacing the $5,000 contribution the theater now receives from the city. Or the city could contribute with a one-time payment from Burlington’s American Rescue Plan Act funds while maintaining the city’s existing annual contribution, as Councilman Matt Rinker has suggested.

“I really like the education part,” Rinker said. “I think back to other projects we’ve supported, the RecPlex bubble being one of those where we made some kind of significant contribution to help get this project (the finish line) across. I would definitely say this project has was a great success. The town supported the arts center, which Tammy ran, and I look at the education that this establishment offers today, not only to young people, but to people of all ages. If we can replicate that from the Capitol Theater side, I think is money well spent.”

Councilman Robert Critser also expressed enthusiasm for the contribution, sharing that his daughters enjoyed the programs at both the Art Center of Burlington and the Capitol Theater this summer. Mayor Jon Billups and pro-tem mayor Lynda Murray also spoke favorably of the plans.

“People win with drama,” Murray said. “When that curtain goes up, everyone wins, so I’m in.”

Councilman Bill Maupin said he was still on the fence.

Zach James, chairman of the Capitol Theater Board, said the city’s contribution could be used as a match for a community attraction and tourism grant that the Capitol will apply for in January and that other grants have been and will be sought.

The cast of The Hunchback of Notre Dame Musical Theater Project performs during practice Tuesday, July 26, 2022 at the Capitol Theater in Burlington, Iowa.  The show will begin at 7 p.m. on Saturday and end with a Matinee at 3 p.m. on Sunday. [John Gaines Photography]

“It will engage very young people into adulthood”

McCoy said the campaign focuses on three strands, namely entertainment, social connection and education.

Entertainment and social connections have been the main targets of the Capitol’s offerings since it reopened in 2012 after being idle for 35 years, but it’s only more recently that education has been added to the mix.

The Capitol recently partnered with Southeastern Community College to give SCC Performing Arts Students a Place for Practice, Performance and Collaboration.

“We also have students working with us, and the fun thing is that they will be using the theater once we have renovated it for their classes. But it will come full circle because some of these students will be using some courses they offer but then they will turn around and once they graduate they will come back and become part of our instructors so I think it’s a good thing to add to our community “, McCoy said.

Other proposed programs for SCC include music clubs and formal performance groups, but McCoy said the money raised through the campaign will enable programming for people of all ages.

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“With this campaign, I’m looking to really expand the impact of the Capitol Theater in Burlington and the surrounding area and to really attract kids as young as 2 and 3 years old because we really want to start making softer music. We want to do a rock school,” McCoy said.

Other youth programs McCoy hopes to offer include age-appropriate summer camps and weekly classes through eighth grade, teen drama, music programs, youth clubs and weekly workshops. for young people with special needs.

Billups was particularly enthusiastic about youth clubs.

“I’m grateful you’re giving teenagers something because we need to give them something to do,” he said.

There will also be plenty for adults to do, with business workshops, an art deco listening lounge with an 1800s bar, and a speakeasy and comedy club.

“It’s going to be a cocktail lounge, so we’re looking at a full liquor license so we can have a place where people can come and have fun, they can connect socially,” McCoy said. “I’m also planning to offer some type of performing arts class for an hour and a half for the kids to attend upstairs so it’s a place for the kids to learn on Friday and Saturday nights also during that the parents might want to go out to dinner or do something.”

McCoy noted that entertainment will not be left out.

The Capitol Theater, recently inducted into the Iowa Music Association’s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, will strive to showcase more local talent.

Capitol Theater Grand Opening Gala on June 1, 2012 in downtown Burlington.  Ten years later, the theater is slated for further major renovations, as well as a name change.

Economic impact on Burlington

Nick Geinosky of Convergent Nonprofit Solutions, a consultant for the Capitol Theater, said modest estimates put the expected economic impact of facility upgrades at $500,000 per year.

He also said the theater could see an increase of around 40% in attendance and attendance within five years of completion, and that number is expected to increase over time and as new programs come in. will be available.

“It’s really hard to estimate how many people this is going to affect,” McCoy said. “I’m already talking with several different groups and seeing what kind of resources we have when it comes to instructors, and once we see what kind of things they can offer, then we’ll know what kinds of courses we’re going to be offering. But we will offer as much as possible.

An artist rendering of a multi-purpose classroom/rehearsal room on Wednesday, January 12, 2022 on the second floor of the theater in downtown Burlington.  Tammy McCoy, executive director of the Capitol Theater, will lead a Capitol campaign later this month to raise money through theater updates.

How the fundraising money will be spent

Of the $2.5 million the campaign is seeking to raise, $1.5 million will go towards second floor renovations and restoration of facades.

This work will include an adaptable 122-seat black box theater, recording studios for students, musicians and podcasters, a mobile stage and chairs for the second floor annex, a working elevator, practice space soundproofed for students and classes, study space for student and educator accommodation, classroom space for SCC, and rental space for events.

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Another $350,000 will go towards improving the catering kitchen for camps, concessions and rentals; improved lighting and insulation; and updated sound equipment for the main theater and listening lounge.

The remaining $650,000 will go to the theater’s financial viability, with $350,000 being used to repay remaining construction loans, and the remainder used to increase cash flow for hiring staff, more programming and future upgrades. upgrading of facilities, as well as to ensure affordable access. programming to the community.

Michaele Niehaus covers business, development, environment and agriculture for The Hawk Eye. She can be reached at mniehaus@thehawkeye.com.

William E. Bennett