STEUBENVILLE - Jackie Stewart didn't let an accident on Interstate 70 stop U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson, R-Marietta, from participating in a Monday morning tour of the Grand Theater.
Stewart, the district director for Johnson, pulled out her Blackberry phone when she arrived in the theater lobby to connect Johnson with a group of local officials for a conference call detailing work already done in the 90-year-old building.
"I can't say enough about how excited I am about the Grand Theater project. I remember when the project first started because I was one of the first people to donate $1,000 to this restoration project. I have been a big fan of this project from the very beginning," Johnson said on the conference telephone call.
TOURING THE GRAND — Steubenville 1st Ward Councilman Gerald DiLoreto and U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson’s District Director Jackie Stewart looked at the ornate ceiling of the Grand Theater on Monday, while Scott Dressel, president of the board of directors for the Grand Theater for the Performing Arts Restoration Project, described future work planned for the 90-year-old theater. - Dave Gossett
"We live in a state that is defying the president's economy. The governor of Ohio has balanced the budget and created a surplus. That is why we can ask for money in the 2015 and 2016 capital budget for the Grand Theater," said Johnson.
State Sen. Lou Gentile, D-Steubenville, and State Rep. Jack Cera, D-Bellaire, have applied for $900,000 for several projects at the Grand Theater.
"The $900,000 request will fund restoration of the stage, flyloft and HVAC for the theater as well as the dressing rooms. Of course any amount helps, so no matter what we get we will be moving forward again this summer on completing the front facade restoration as well," said Scott Dressel, president of the board of directors for the Grand Theater for the Performing Arts Restoration Project.
"I believe good days are ahead for the Grand Theater. It is a project that will energize the city in the future. That money will allow the project to move forward," noted Johnson.
Dressel is encouraging all area residents who support the Grand Theater restoration project to contact Ohio Gov. John Kasich to encourage him to support the $900,000 capital budget request.
"Anything you can do to make this a reality will be welcomed. So far we have received about $500,000 in contributions that has allowed us to do several projects, including sealing the roof. The entire project will create at least 100 construction jobs for a couple of years. Once completed, between 300 and 500 permanent jobs will be created as local businesses expand and new businesses are opened to take advantage of the event traffic generated by the operating Grand Theater Performing Arts and Event Center. Completion of the Grand Theater project and further development will turn around the blight that has plagued the downtown area since the demise of the local steel industry. The local economy has stabilized and slow growth is occurring. The Grand Theater will assist in accelerating that process and will help the area take advantage of the oil and gas industry traffic that is passing through the city," said Dressel.
Stewart joined Steubenville Mayor Domenick Mucci, City Manager Tim Boland, 1st Ward Councilman Gerald DiLoreto, 2nd Ward Councilman Mike Johnson and 6th Ward Councilman Bob Villamagna for a tour of the theater.
Dressel said the historic theater originally had seats for about 1,000 people with a stage and dressing rooms, two ballrooms, office and lobby,
He wants to add a museum of local performing arts, artists cafe and work area where people can come to meet, talk, enjoy local art on display and watch while art is created.
"We will change the seating to accommodate the Americans with Disabilities Act. And we have been contemplating moving the side walls in a little to allow for better maintenance," added Dressel.
Dressel has estimated the restoration project will last at least 10 years.
"All financial donations are welcomed and help us to continue the restoration work. I am continuing to hope for two or three major donations that will allow us to bring the Grand Theater back to life a little sooner," stated Dressel.