Wheaton Grand Theater

123 N. Hale Street,
Wheaton, IL 60187

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JLoster on August 21, 2007 at 7:21 am

From 8/21/07 Daily Herald:

Wheaton officials praise Grand Theaterâ€\s renovation plans
By James Fuller

Posted Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Wheaton city officials fulfilled a promise to openly support the renovation of the Wheaton Grand Theater Monday night.

As expected, the city council unanimously passed a resolution praising the private financing of the restoration and potential economic benefits to Wheatonâ€\s downtown.

Business projections estimate a remodeled Wheaton Grand could bring at least 235,000 people to the downtown over the course of nearly 400 shows a year.

“I think itâ€\s a wonderful thing for the downtown, the city,” said Councilman John Prendiville. “I hope we can iron out the last few details and move ahead very quickly.”

The last few details involve the city letting the theater use its bonding authority to borrow $16.8 million to finance the remodeling. The city would have no financial repayment obligations under the proposed deal.

The other final detail would be the creation of a theater or entertainment tax. The tax would add $5 to the cost of a theater ticket to help pay back the theaterâ€\s debt. However, the tax may apply to other entertainment venues in the city as well. City Manager Don Rose said Monday that the cityâ€\s attorneys are working on the language, but have not made any significant progress yet.

nvisibleman on August 20, 2007 at 4:54 pm

The Wheaton Grand. I wonder, at this point, why I even bother weighing in on this debate. I love the theatre. I think the programing that first Loster, then GVI, Warshauer and Novelli brought into the community was excellent. May I refresh your memory?

Plain White T’s (now a multi-platinum Mega Rock band)
Mae (On one of the hottest rock tours of the summer)
The Cub Scouts from Longfellow Elementary School
Countless teenagers to rock and hang out at a historic venue

It seems to me that the theatre was a safe place to spend time for kids and other locals who wanted to spend some time working on things. I wish people would do what the theatre is meant to do: entertain an audience with cinema and live performances. What does all this nonsense about tax and restoration do?


Until there is all three of these essential things firing on all cylinders, there is no Wheaton Grand. And until at least one of these starts, then there will be no entertainment and movies for the community of Wheaton.

Stop talking about price tags, petitioning the council and DO SOMETHING!! Book a show! License a movie and sell tickets to the public! Board members, if you believe in it put your money and credit ratings on the line and fix the theatre.

Rock-n-Roll will never die. Hip-Hop will live forever. Peace, Love and Art.

JLoster on August 15, 2007 at 10:57 am

From 8/15/07 Daily Herald:

A ticket tax to help Grand Theater?
Per ticket charge may fund part of Wheaton Grand Theater renovation

By James Fuller

Posted Wednesday, August 15, 2007

The renovation of the Wheaton Grand Theater has been taxing work for all involved, and may prove to be taxing on entertainment in the city in general.

Theater officials asked the city council this week to formally support the renovation by passing a resolution stating the importance of the venue to the city.

The council expressed its willingness to pass such a resolution and investigate at least two ways it can help the theater financially.

One method may have an impact on entertainment throughout the city.

It would involve the creation of a theater or entertainment tax. The tax would manifest in a $5 fee on ticket sales at the Wheaton Grand.

If the idea is approved, the city would collect the tax to raise money to help pay for a planned renovation of the 82-year-old theater in downtown Wheaton.

The city would collect the tax instead of the theater to create a middleman that would appease investors in the theater looking for a layer of security.

City lawyers are investigating if itâ€\s possible to create a tax that would apply only to the Wheaton Grand, and if not, what other venues such a tax could affect.

Councilman John Prendiville already suggested maintaining the entertainment tax even after the Wheaton Grand retires its debt for the city to use as a revenue stream.

Theater officials also want to use the cityâ€\s bonding authority to borrow about $16.8 million in tax-exempt revenue bonds for the renovation. The deal would leave the city with zero financial obligations to pay the debt back if the theater faltered, Prendiville said.

The city council indicated a willingness to investigate all the requests with the view of the theater potentially becoming the downtownâ€\s anchor attraction.

A feasibility study for the theater estimates the 1,150-seat venue would bring at least 235,000 people to the downtown over the course of 394 performances each year. Those numbers reflect seats only 70 percent full.

Ray Shepardson, whoâ€\s handling the renovation, said he expects audiences regularly at 85 percent capacity. He plans to meet that by giving regular subscribers what amounts to a 50 percent discount on tickets in a “buy three, get three free” program.

With a newly guaranteed $13 million price tag to renovate the theater, the project would begin construction next spring and open doors in early 2009.

BartHalleman on July 25, 2007 at 10:05 pm

I think that they will do it. And suceed!

JLoster on July 25, 2007 at 7:26 am

Here’s the Daily Herald article Bryan refers to (in case the link goes down):

Duo has grand vision for Wheaton theater
By James Fuller

Posted Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Ray Shepardson and Tim Rater first crossed paths in the budding days of the Metropolis Performing Arts Centre in Arlington Heights.

Shepardson was a theater consultant on a plan to create a public partnership between the village and the theater. Rater already was on the path to becoming the Metropolisâ€\ executive director.

So it made sense that Shepardson would call Rater to see how the Metropolis was holding up as the Wheaton Grand Theater began renovations and Shepardson found himself at the helm.

Shepardson learned Rater was booking more than 400 performances a year at the Metropolis. Shepardson has the same vision for the Wheaton Grand.

Rater also was drawing more than 75,000 people a year to the 309-seat theater with acts brought in on a $15,000-a-week talent budget. Imagine what Rater could do at an 1,100-seat theater with a talent budget averaging $100,000 per week, Shepardson thought.

“I wanted to see what he thought of my approach, and he was so enthusiastic,” Shepardson said. “I wanted someone who has experience being a ferocious user of the building. I donâ€\t like to raid staff, but the opportunity just presented itself.”

Rater has accepted a job with Market Value Productions, a company run by Shepardsonâ€\s wife. Heâ€\ll help oversee all aspects of the re-opening of the Wheaton Grand Theater from now on.

On Monday, Rater said he considered Shepardsonâ€\s plan for the Wheaton Grand as a chance to live out a personal dream.

“Rayâ€\s plans for how to actually operate and program the space are pretty smart,” Rater said. “And knowing what sort of talent you can bring in with that kind of operating budget is exciting for me.”

Rater said of the 1,100 seats and a talent budget averaging $100,000, “Thereâ€\s not going to be a lot of artists that wouldnâ€\t want to play at the Wheaton Grand.”

Thatâ€\s good news for business in downtown Wheaton.

Rater said that for every dollar spent on a theater ticket, patrons tend to spend $7 on supplemental purchases, such as clothing and food.

According to Rater, his experience also showed that two-thirds of the audience at Metropolisâ€\ shows came from communities outside of Arlington Heights â€" more good news for Wheaton in terms of deflecting the local tax burden outside the community.

But as excited as Rater is about the Wheaton Grand, he said leaving the Metropolis wasnâ€\t an easy decision.

All the 2007 performances at the Metropolis are booked through the end of the year. There are several months before booking next seasonâ€\s shows begins. That creates an ideal time to search for and find Raterâ€\s replacement.

“I love Metropolis,” Rater said. “I love everything about it. We have a wonderful facility, but what is going to be created in Wheaton is going to be even more spectacular.”

Rater and Shepardson will meet with Wheaton elected officials next month to get the ball rolling. They hope to lock up financing for renovating the theater by the end of the year, and open the doors in 2009.

moody1785 on July 21, 2007 at 1:02 pm

Metropolis leader exits stage right
After 5 years on the job, theater director resigns to take Wheaton post

By Ames Boykin

Posted Saturday, July 21, 2007

The Metropolis Performing Arts Centre in Arlington Heights on Friday said goodbye to its executive director, who will take on the challenging project to restore the Wheaton Grand Theater.

Tim Rater, 32, told the theaterâ€\s board on Thursday of his resignation from the post he has held since 2002. He told staff members Friday of his decision to lead the renovation and restoration team looking to bring the 1920s Grand Theater back to life. The resignation, announced late Friday, was effective immediately.

Rater, who couldnâ€\t be reached for comment, started working at the Arlington Heights theater as its general manager when it opened in 2000. Two years later, he replaced the theaterâ€\s first director, Alan Salzenstein.

“Itâ€\s an exciting opportunity to be part of a team thatâ€\s restoring a magnificent theater and an opportunity to build another great performing arts center,” Rater said in a statement. “Iâ€\ll miss Metropolis, but I know Iâ€\m leaving it in a good place.”

Monica McCarthy, Metropolis board president, said she was surprised by the move.

“Weâ€\re very proud of Timâ€\s opportunity. We will miss him. (But) One of the beautiful things is Tim has assembled a top-notch staff,” McCarthy said. “We feel very confident that until we find a replacement things will run business-as-usual.”

The theater will immediately begin a search for a new director, she said.

Arlington Heights Mayor Arlene Mulder said she received a call from Rater on Friday. Arlington Heights serves as the landlord for the downtown theater.

“Itâ€\s one of those things: change is inevitable. I know that Timâ€\s done a wonderful job. He along with his staff have put together the program for this year,” Mulder said. “When you think about it, itâ€\s not like heâ€\s leaving at a critical point.”

Rater will work for a firm owned by Ray Shepardson, manager of the Grand Theater project.

Shepardson said he wants Rater to duplicate the Metropolisâ€\ success. He is preparing a presentation for Wheaton officials. While he would like some government help, Shepardson has no plans to pitch a public-private partnership like the deal Metropolis has with Arlington Heights.

“Weâ€\re looking to get the city involved but not as an owner or risk taker. Our project doesnâ€\t need a subsidy,” he said.

He hopes to begin the restoration project next year, and open the 1,100-seat theater in 2009.

BartHalleman on March 2, 2007 at 3:04 pm

I recently found out that the architect of the Wheaton Grand was a student of Frank Lloyd Wright. Perhaps some information may be available of him in either Oak Park, Spring Green,Wisconsin, or Arizona? These are locations well known by Frank Lloyd Wright followers. I feel something like this may be helpful for Ray Shepardson.

Also did any of you know that the architect E. Norman Brydges was from Elmhurst? I shared this with Ray Shepardson already. If anyone might have anything to add PLEASE do so.

BartHalleman on March 2, 2007 at 2:56 pm

I second it. His name will no longer be typed by me too.

TheNeighbor on February 25, 2007 at 3:24 pm

So this is it. His name will never appear on this site again, at least not typed by my hands! He is forevermore “He who shall not be named”…let’s let him go. Maybe something will work out for him and he’ll be able to say “I told you so” or some such. In the mean time, let’s all move on with talking about something else…anything else. The good ol' days? Restoration efforts? Plans for the future? Come on, surely we can think of something more interesting to talk about…

The Neighbor

BartHalleman on February 17, 2007 at 2:50 am

It’s true Paul we should talk about theatre, In the past all you did was talk about the personalities. Everyone with this theatre you had a gripe. Including village officials!! Don’t deny it! I have stood behind you watching thinking are you for real? The more you surface in the press I know about it. Since I read and like the press. You are a carny man! Whatever happened with St. Michael’s church play?Fiddler on the Roof. After you left the theatre you left it too.I would have stuck with it.What work have you followed through with? You say you have but name them! Who knows I maybe one of the persons you took advantage of? You have many failures 6 I can name. This is reality not some game.I know Mike why are you not with him now?

rroberts on February 17, 2007 at 1:20 am

Ok this is it then I hope that my name will not appear on this site again. You ask ME to apologize? For what? Who are you? I try to stay away but still nameless people hide in the bushes and slam my work and me personally. Have you worked on theatre restoraton? Name your projects, successess and failures. I try at least and I win some and lose some but I try. I don’t bitch from the sidelines. I am in the game. If you don’t play the game, don’t try and make the rules. This is supposed to be a site that discusses the THEATRE and restoration. Stick to helping them and stop scapegoating me. Have you even read the court papers to find out what this misguided board did to Mike Novelli and to me? If not, shut up and go away. Has anyone seen forward movement to open the Wheaton Grand Theatre since we left almost two years ago? NO. I try to stay away but YOU and others clearly have nothing positive to say so you keep bringing my name up and dragging it again and again through the mud. Let it go and I won’t visit this site again. I promise. Months go by then something triggers some new person to begin the slams again. We are all tired of it. TALK ABOUT THE THEATRE NOT THE PERSONALITIES.

BartHalleman on February 16, 2007 at 8:50 pm

why don’t you move on Paul? And stay away. We prefer talking about the theatre.As we look to the future of this fine theatre. Paul why don’t you leave us alone? The more involvment of you on this site will only trigger more hurt feelings? I think everyone here would agree with me. And that is for your involvment with this site and the theatre to be history. I do have additional information that I could share on you with everyone. It’s your call Paul? Apologize and move on.

rroberts on February 16, 2007 at 6:12 pm

Can’t you all move on? I have…

Mike (saps)
Mike (saps) on February 16, 2007 at 3:57 am

I stumbled on this thread and thought it would be interesting to read about a grand old theater in Illinois, one of my favorite states. However, I am now removing myself from this listing because it is nothing but endless tedium. Good luck, children. Try to play nice.

BartHalleman on February 15, 2007 at 7:07 pm

hey guys,

I am new to the area. I have friends that are well known in Wheaton. Also being a direct descendant of E.H. Gary the man who built the courthouse. I think this forum should be a positive group. And not one influenced by Paul Warshauer. Agree??

BartHalleman on February 15, 2007 at 7:02 pm

Paul to quote yourself it seems you are indeed a sad little man. I know you and I can honestly say that you are not as honest as claim to be. I laughed when Liz Coray put you down. My friends live in Dupage County. You are originally from Chicago. The theatre is being restored. I noticed that when I was there last. I remember seeing your boys that worked for you with their long hair and torn pants. And all those cigarettes!!!

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on February 8, 2007 at 4:50 pm

I had not realized that the theatre’s attorney was working pro-bono, nor had I realized that the tried and true defamation card had been thrown down:

View link

rroberts on January 24, 2007 at 3:04 pm

So do I ever have a right to defend myself or my record anywhere or must I continually read the distortions and untruths here? I try to discuss the THEATRES and what plans they have. I will abide…

Patrick Crowley
Patrick Crowley on January 22, 2007 at 6:22 am

Paul — we’ve been over this a bunch of times. This isn’t the place for you, or others, to be discussing your reputation. Please take this discussion offline.

rroberts on January 21, 2007 at 4:29 pm

I love reading about people who have never met me or know of my work. Why not ask me directly instead of spreading malicious and useless gossip?

Paul Fortini
Paul Fortini on January 20, 2007 at 10:08 am

Brooklyn Jim and Ray Mazzolini,

A little off-topic here, but the CA&E actually ended at Laramie Avenue and Congress Street. East of Laramie, it had operating rights over the Chicago L so that it could operate into Downtown. Conversely, the Chicago L had operating rights over the CA&E west of Laramie into Forest Park (and before 1951, Westchester).

The CA&E was cut back to Forest Park in 1953 to allow for construction of the Congress Street (now Eisenhower) Expressway. The L had to be torn down to allow for this construction. During this construction, the CTA L used a temporary right-of-way, which the CA&E refused to do, thus forcing passengers to transfer to the L at Forest Park. This cost an immediate loss of ridership to the CA&E, which abruptly shut down at noon on July 3, 1957 and stranding many people.

moody1785 on January 18, 2007 at 5:50 am

Yes.I remember CA&E.I road it many times as a youngster from Lombard in route to Chicago.The CA&E ended in Forest Park.The tracks are now the Illinois Prairie Path.
We have cycled the path many times from Wheaton to Aurora and Elgin.
I remember the magazine also.
Thanks for the link.

BrooklynJim on January 17, 2007 at 1:48 pm

Old-timers on CT from this area may well remember Sam Insull’s interurbans that ran from the wishbone of Aurora and Elgin, meeting at Wheaton before proceeding into Chicago. The CA&E ended its run sometime around ‘57. Check this out:

View link

Illinois movie theater pics occasionally appear in these wonderful transit magazines. (When I eventually get the capability, I hope to post a few, so stay tuned…)

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on January 17, 2007 at 12:29 pm

Yeah, it sure is. I happened to see that episode in 1987 and I nearly died laughing. In all these years I have not forgotten Dumpwater, Florida.

Paul Fortini
Paul Fortini on January 17, 2007 at 2:58 am

I agree with LTS. Although I don’t live in Wheaton and I’ve never been to the Wheaton Grand, I’ve been thru it many times as I love bike riding. Wheaton is the center point of the two branches and main stem of the Illinois Prairie Path. There are a lot of forest preserves nearby in which to hike, bike ride, and participate in other outdoor activities too. Wheaton’s downtown seems fairly active too if one wants shopping and restaurants while avoiding the malls, strip malls, and Walmarts.

Incidentally, LTS, is your term “Dumpwater, FL” a reference to a certain MARRIED WITH CHILDREN episode?