Ohio Theatre renovations gain momentum as reopening nears

TOLEDO, OH (Toledo News Now) - The countdown is on for the re-opening of the only neighborhood theater still standing in the Glass City. The major renovation project is gaining momentum in Toledo's Polish Village to the tune of $1 million. That money is being spent to transform and preserve the historic Ohio Theatre.

"I think it's a great diamond-in-the-rough theater. It's the last remaining neighborhood theater in Toledo," said Jamie Sampson, new manager of the Ohio Theatre.

Renovations are well under way at the theater on Lagrange Street. Phase one interior improvements include a new roof, installation of a heating and air system, a new stage, new support system for sound and light equipment, plus new restroom facilities. The United North recently hired Sampson to book events and oversee operations.

"We're a very flexible space now that we have this new, bigger stage," explained Sampson. "The pitch of the theater: It's about halfway between what we would normally have for a movie theater or a symphony event, so we have a lot of versatility."

Many believe preserving this theater is a step in the right direction for the neighborhood as a whole. Sampson says saving this neighborhood gem is important to provide a venue for the local arts.

"I think this theater has potential to draw in a lot of the neighborhood, bring us together, connect the arts that are already wonderful pillars in this community - the Toledo Symphony, the Toledo School for the Arts, Glass City Theatre Collective - and bring them all to a place where we can reconnect," explained Sampson.

The first events will start taking place during the first week of May. On May 2, the theater will host a Toledo School for the Arts dance show and a Toledo Symphony Chamber Ensemble concert on May 5.

"We are also looking into youth programming that we can run, summer intensives in dance, not just ballet, but maybe hip-hop," said Sampson.

Terry Glazer, with United North, says saving the Ohio Theatre is a major investment in the neighborhood's future.

"We believe this will be a real economic generator. The thousands of people that are going to come into this theater - both from the neighborhood and from outside the neighborhood - are going to generate some new businesses," said Glazer.

For the theater manager, building up a volunteer base will go a long way towards stretching a limited operating budget.

"To clean it up more than it already is, and then we're going to be running a full volunteer corps with ushers and concession workers," said Sampson.

Phase two improvements will focus on the exterior of the building, including a new facade. Fundraising efforts are already under way.

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