Putting air conditioning into the city hall auditorium will cost $750,000, of which Mayor Judith Flanagan Kennedy has already found $235,000.
The last $500,000 or so will have to come from the city and or from private capital sources, according to Jamie Marsh, the city’s Community Development Director and the head of the auditorium.
In recent years, the auditorium has been used for commercial purposes, taking in good money, generating a profit and providing great entertainment.
In upcoming months, the auditorium will be hosting a Cirque brand circus type venue as well as musicians Peter Frampton and Pink Floyd. They will be followed by The Irish Rovers and Charlie Daniels.
“The difficulty with having no air conditioning in the auditorium is that we have a great start to the year in September, book many shows, entertain thousands of people, and then in June it has to stop because of the heat,” said Marsh, who praised the mayor for her great work in getting the grant.
“We can hold the grant for 2 years but we must raise the additional funding needed in order to meet the estimated $750,000 price tag,” he said.
Marsh said that if the auditorium was running shows throughout the year, the air conditioning costs would more than pay for itself.
Also, Marsh said the reality of maintaining entertainment as a venue inside the auditorium throughout the year would make the effort a real money maker for the city.
“Booking events, packing the place and then having to go for three months not booking events because there is no AC is a big problem,” Marsh said.
He said the AC is the final lynchpin in making a breakthrough with the auditorium.
The auditorium’s re-birth came in 2006 with its near total rehabilitation.
What started out slowly has accelerated under Marsh’s tenure.
“It is very tough to stop and start,” said Marsh.
“It is very tough to run a first class entertainment auditorium without air conditioning,” he added.
The city is now making efforts to locate the $500,000 it needs to move forward.
Marsh is hoping some of the city’s largest companies like GE might be inclined to put down a chunk of money for the stage to be named for it. The same could be done for others who donate.