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Our updated website is at www.wheatongrand.net
This last weekend, the gentleman who is spearheading the Wheaton Grand Theater’s restoration, Mr. Ray Shepardson, was awarded an Honorary Doctorate of Humane Letters degree by Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland Ohio. Mr. Shepardson led the efforts to preserve the Playhouse Square theater complex in Cleveland. From a grassroots campaign, Mr. Shepardson staged 200-300 productions per year and saved the theaters from demolition. Between public and private efforts, the project raised $40 million to preserve and reopen the theaters. Civic leaders have hailed Mr. Shepardson’s work in saving the theaters as one of the top ten successes in Cleveland history. We on the Wheaton Grand Theater Executive Board, along with the many volunteers could not be happier to have Mr. Shepardson leading our project. Congratulations Ray!
Face-lift studied for old theater
Wheaton pledges support, but not financial guarantee
By Clifford Ward
Special to the Tribune
August 22, 2007
Michael Gresk remembers seeing movies under the twinkling stars set against the blue dome inside the Wheaton Grand Theatre in the 1960s.
“It was quite a showpiece,” he said Tuesday.
Gresk, now Wheaton’s mayor, and the city are studying ways to help — short of taking an active financial role — with the renovation of Wheaton’s 80-year-old downtown theater.
The City Council Monday approved a resolution supporting the Wheaton Grand Theatre Corp., which is working to arrange financing to overhaul the 1,150-seat venue on Hale Street.
That ceremonial step could be the prelude to Wheaton agreeing to lend its name, though not a financial guarantee, that would allow the corporation to issue bonds to finance $13 million in renovations.
“We would issue them, but we don’t guarantee them,” Gresk said. “City taxpayers are not on the hook for this.
“If we can lend our name to the project, then we are happy to do it,” he said.
Project manager Ray Shepardson said work could begin next spring with hopes of a grand opening in spring 2009. Although the theater, which opened in 1925, would have its terra-cotta exterior spruced up, the major work will happen inside, he said.
Wheaton and the theater are also negotiating for eight parking spaces north of the stage side, which Shepardson said would be used for expanded dressing rooms and backstage area.
The corporation has also asked Wheaton to study ways it could impose and collect a $5-per-ticket fee, which would be used to help pay off the renovation loan.
Gresk said the city is looking at whether such a fee would affect other local venues.
The theater itself should generate most of the money for the renovation, said Shepardson, who has overseen 30 to 40 such projects across the country.
“This is one of the lowest-risk theater ventures I’ve seen,” he said. “You’ve got 2 million people living within 15 miles who have an $80,000 median family income.”
Plans call for 350 performances a year. Backers said the theater would draw 300,000 people yearly to downtown Wheaton.
“That can only bode well for downtown retailers and restaurants,” the mayor said.
Copyright Â© 2007, Chicago Tribune
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.
â€œI think itâ€\s a wonderful thing for the downtown, the city,â€ said Councilman John Prendiville. â€œI hope we can iron out the last few details and move ahead very quickly.â€
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.
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 â€œbuy three, get three freeâ€ 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.
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.
â€œI wanted to see what he thought of my approach, and he was so enthusiastic,â€ Shepardson said. â€œI 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.â€
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.
â€œRayâ€\s plans for how to actually operate and program the space are pretty smart,â€ Rater said. â€œAnd knowing what sort of talent you can bring in with that kind of operating budget is exciting for me.â€
Rater said of the 1,100 seats and a talent budget averaging $100,000, â€œThereâ€\s not going to be a lot of artists that wouldnâ€\t want to play at the Wheaton Grand.â€
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.
â€œI love Metropolis,â€ Rater said. â€œI 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.â€
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.
Yeah, that’s a pretty nice article. We’re going to have a great time on April 1st for our last 2006 show, ending this phase on a high note, then start getting busy with the next phase. This place is going to be something special when it reopens.
Thanks to everyone who came out to a show the last few years – we hope to see you all back when we’re reopened.
Cosmogirl, thanks for the kind words. Yes, we’ll keep the public involved, definitely. With the venue being closed while we begin the work, it will become essential to keep the public informed on what’s happening so no-one forgets about us! Keep an eye on this site, or on our website www.wheatongrand.net and we’ll try to keep it infused with as much info as possible. Thanks for your support!
Good news! Wheaton Grand Theater won two awards last night at Suburban Nitelife’s Best of the Burbs 2005 awards ceremony. We were the proud winners of Best All-Ages Music Venue and Best Original Music Venue. A nice way to finish our 2006 programming season (although we have 4 more shows left!) Looking forward to a great future!
From the March 18th Daily Herald’s Editorial page:
Pivotal juncture for Wheaton Grand:
Come April, the Wheaton Grand Theater will shut down for the sake of reopening. That may sound paradoxical, but itâ€™s actually a bold plan to start in earnest a major renovation of the long-languishing, 80-year-old venue. Itâ€™s also a risk. The Grand, set back by lawsuits and stumbles, has finally started generating some buzz â€" and money â€" through rock concerts and other shows. Itâ€™s tempting to keep that going while the goingâ€™s good. But thatâ€™s always been a step toward the larger goal of renovating the theater to its former glory, restoring a central part of Wheatonâ€™s history and giving the city the high-class performing arts venue it deserves. It might not work, but, having come this far, itâ€™s time to try.
Thank you LTS, I’ll take a look thru them. I appreciate it.
The times and lineup for Sunday’s Jazz Festival:
2pm – Black Bear Combo
3pm – Marmaduke
4pm – The Dave Miller Trio
5pm – Ted Sirota’s Rebel Souls
6pm – Dave Specter
7pm – Reginald Robinson
8pm – The Nils Higdon Ensemble
All-ages, $6 admission
For those of you who are jazz fans, as well as theater buffs – we’ll be having our first Jazz Festival at the Wheaton Grand on Sunday March 12th from 2pm until 9pm. Featured artists include Reginald Robinson, Dave Specter, Ted Sirota’s Rebel Souls, The Dave Miller Trio, The Nils Higdon Ensemble, Marmaduke and the Black Bear Combo.
Tickets are only $6 for the whole day. If you need additional info, contact us at
From the Daily Herald:
Ex-Grand Theater manager criticizes plan
Council member upset with manâ€™s attempt to get on Wheatonâ€™s Fine Arts Commission
By James Fuller
Daily Herald Staff Writer
Posted Wednesday, January 04, 2006
A staged attempt to put a spotlight back on the future of the Wheaton Grand Theater and win a place on a city commission got the hook Tuesday night.
Former Wheaton Grand Theater Manager Paul Warshauer took shots at the theaterâ€™s plan to restore the venue to a single 800-seat auditorium during the public comments portion of the Wheaton City Council meeting.
Warshauer said the theater was destined to become an 800-seat â€œmausoleumâ€ that will incur more debt than public interest. He encouraged the city council to push the current theater board for proof of how their plan will work.
Warshauer then offered to serve on the recently created Fine Arts Commission. Current Wheaton Grand Theater board member Charles Long currently sits on the commission. Warshauer and his partner Mike Novelli have a pending $300,000 lawsuit against the theater. The lawsuit alleges unsafe working conditions and unpaid commissions.
Councilwoman Liz Corry helped create the Fine Arts Commission and chastised Warshauer for attempting to spread misinformation and innuendo about the theater.
â€œTo insert the city into a legal dispute that you have with the Grand Theater Corporation is really unfair,â€ Corry said. â€œI would hope you keep your comments to your court case.â€
After the meeting, Warshauer denied that any of his comments contained misinformation about the theater.
I’m here! Please feel free to send me an email here:
First of all, just to emphasize this, the theater will eventually be one room when the restoration takes place. This is kind of a prior-to-restoration step that was done to create a bigger room for our musical performances and for the volunteers (and the public) to see a glimpse at the future (and the past!). It is now possible to open a door in the lobby, and see someone standing on the 1925-era stage. That’s something that hasn’t been possible in decades.
The work that was done, all contributed by volunteers, was to remove a wall that went from (side to side) one side wall (house left) to the middle of the auditorium, as well as a hallway. The remaining work that would need to be accomplished would be to do a similar effort for the other wall (house right) to the middle. That would be the same effort as what we did, PLUS then we would have to remove a far larger wall that went down the middle of the auditorium. Its kind of hard to describe in words, so I hope you’re getting this. By doing what we’ve done so far, we created a much bigger space with relative ease. To go any further would require a great deal more work (and cost) than we can probably put the volunteers through at the moment.
A smaller concern was that prior to restoration, there is a minimum of storage and prepping areas, so the smaller room is used a lot for that. Bands use it for a “green room”, supplies are kept in there, the volunteers use it for an staff area, etc.
It wouldn’t surprise me if we sat down and decided to take a crack at it in 2006 though!
The volunteers recently knocked down the wall separating one of the existing smaller rooms with the larger room. There are now just two theaters (on the way to one)instead of three.
Theater gets official stamp for historic status
Wheaton Grand has served as entertainment forum for 80 years
By Hank Beckman
It’s official: the Wheaton Grand Theater is listed in the National Register of Historic Places.
The decision made in August by the Department of the Interior was formalized by a dedication ceremony Sept. 17 and the unveiling of a plaque on the front wall of the building at 123 N. Hale St. in downtown Wheaton.
The building is owned by the Grand Theater Corporation, a nonprofit group dedicated to restoring the building.
Ron Richardson, chairman of group, unveiled the plaque, and Wheaton Councilwoman Liz Corry read from a statement from Mayor C. James Carr, who was unable to attend the event.
“For 80 years, the Wheaton Grand has served Wheaton as a forum in which many types of quality entertainment have been offered,” Corry said.
The statement went on to note the importance of the Wheaton Grand in revitalizing the Wheaton downtown business district.
Also present was Hema Pandya, the graduate student in historical preservation at the Art Institute of Chicago responsible for guiding the project through the process of being awarded national recognition.
“You have to fight for it and show why you think it deserves to be nominated,” Pandya said.
“When I saw the plaque, I just …,” Pandya’s voice trailed off, overcome by emotion.
Presiding over the unveiling was Charles Long, member of the Grand Theater Corporation Board of Directors.
“This is an important addition to the downtown fabric,” Long said.
Long also noted the importance of the theater to the Wheaton community.
“This theater played a historically significant role in this community’s cultural heritage â€” this is the fifth historic place in Wheaton."
The previous owners donated the building to the GTC under the conditions that it would remain a theater and ultimately be restored.
“We’ve been working to give this project the best possible opportunity to succeed,” said Louis Margaglione, a board member of GTC. “This is a significant first step.”
Margaglione also noted the financial significance of the distinction, saying that it would mean a $1.7 million tax write-off that GTC could sell to a corporate donor.
Overall costs of the project are estimated to be close to $8 million.
“This is just starting,” Margaglione said. “We are closing one chapter while opening what may be the most exciting phase, the capital campaign and the rehab of this national treasure.”
Also in the audience was former Illinois Supreme Court Justice S. Louis Rathje, whose family members were among the previous owners of the building.
“Charlie (Long) brought out good points about the heritage of the Wheaton Grand and how it was vital to the town,” Rathje said. “It’s a pleasure to be part of this, and I hope this organization can restore the building to its former glamour.”
Alberta Adamson of the Center for History praised GTC.
“It’s wonderful; it’s magnificent; and this is well-deserved recognition for the group. It takes a lot of money and effort and it’s important that people recognize the significance of this building.”
Ray Shepardson is a nationally known expert in theater restoration who was hired by GTC to oversee the restoration of the Wheaton Grand.
“Unlike the Dupage Theater, we’ve got the ball rolling instead of swinging,” Shepardson said, referring to Lombard’s recent decision to approve the demolition of the historic theater.
Long pleaded with the community for patience.
“Stay with us on this and stay engaged â€” so much more work needs to be done."
One other thing Neighbor – We’re planning a Hurricane benefit on September 25th, a Sunday. We’ll be having a few jazz groups playing. If you can think of ways that you, or any of the other Wheaton business-people would like to contribute to the event, please stop by the theater and we can discuss it. Thanks.
I think you’ll be pleased with this week’s events! We have an 18 piece big band jazz concert tonight at 7:30. On Friday night we have an “Unplugged” concert with some local rock bands playing all-acoustic. On Saturday, a big day. We’re showing animated children’s movies continuously from 9am to 3pm, including one that was made by a Wheaton Warrenville South alumnus and was nominated for an Academy Award! All the proceeds from the animated films will be going to A.D.O.P.T, a pet adoption agency out of Naperville. Then at 3:30, there’s the historic register ceremony, and finally a rock concert Saturday evening. We’ll be asking a lot of hours from our volunteers this week, but it’ll be a lot of fun. We’ve been talking to a several people about both film festivals and theatrical productions. There’s a lot in the pipeline. Please join us for the ceremony on Saturday!
On August 12, 2005, the National Trust for Historic Preservation placed the Wheaton Grand Theater on its National Register of Historic Places. This listing was the result of nearly two years of work from project volunteers, and is among the most venerated and important designations that an historic structure can obtain. Being placed on this list serves as a testament to the work of those who both had the vision to build the theater as well as those working to rehabilitate it.
To celebrate this listing, there will be a dedication ceremony held at the Wheaton Grand Theater, 123 N. Hale St., in downtown Wheaton, where the National Register plaque will be presented. Please join the Board and all the Volunteers of the Grand Theater Corporation on Saturday, September 17, 2005, from 3:30 P.M. â€" 4:00 P.M., as we commemorate this momentous day in the history of our community.
Mr. Newman – The one auditorium plan will have 800 to 900 seats. The plan does not currently include additional structures.
Posted in today’s Daily Herald:
Judge dismisses promoterâ€™s lawsuit against WheatonÂ theater
By James Fuller
Daily Herald Staff Writer
Posted Friday, August 19, 2005
A DuPage County judge tossed out a concert promoterâ€™s lawsuit against the Wheaton Grand Theater Thursday, setting the stage for the theaterâ€™s attorney to fire back.
Michael Twietmeyer of Elgin sought $5,000 from the Grand Theater Corp. He claimed the theater broke a contract he signed to put on five concerts at the downtown venue.
Theater officials believed the contract was never valid because it was made with a management company the theater board had already fired. That company, Grand Venues, Inc., has filed its own lawsuit against the theater.
Twietmeyer did not file a response to the theaterâ€™s motion for dismissal and didnâ€™t show up for a hearing Thursday.
That shows the suit was just an attempt to give the theater a black eye in the publicâ€™s perception, said Tim Newitt, the theaterâ€™s attorney.
â€œThereâ€™s absolutely no question in my mind about that,â€ he said.
Newitt said heâ€™ll petition the court to force Twietmeyer to pay Newittâ€™s attorneyâ€™s fees for the case. Thatâ€™ll amount to $1,350.
Twietmeyer was unable to be reached for comment Thursday.
Just this week, theater operators learned it had been accepted onto the National Register of Historic Places. Efforts are under way to restore the theater, which opened in 1925.
Thank you Neighbor. It was a pleasure having you at the meeting. Please encourage any & all downtown business owners to come to the meetings, or just stop by to chat.
More good news…the lawsuit filed by Michael Tweitmeyer against the Grand Theater Corporation was dismissed in court this morning.
Its been a good week!
To all Wheaton Grand Theater supporters: I just wanted to share some great news with everyone. The Grand Theater (its original name) has just been listed on the National Register of Historic Places. A big thanks to Dr. Charles Tuma, one of our Executive Board members who started the process of securing the listing over two years ago, and to Hema Pandya, a School of the Art Institute of Chicago student who volunteered hours of work and preparation and made the formal presentation in front of the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency back in June. We just received the word from Washington this morning, and are pleased to share it with all of you.