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Originally published: 2014-05-08 11:30:41
Last modified: 2014-05-08 11:31:26

Commissioners discuss Appalachian Theatre project

by Allison Haver

The Appalachian Theatre of the High Country, Inc. requested county funding help to restore and renovate the Appalachian Theatre located in downtown Boone during the Watauga County Commissioners meeting on Wednesday. 

Jonathan Allen with the Appalachian Theatre of the High Country Inc., presented information to the board about the Theatre and requested County support for the project.

"The capitol campaign is underway and is still in the "silent phase" with 3.3 million dollars so far," Allen said.

The organization is hoping to raise around $5 million to renovate the 700-seat theater on King Street.

Allen asked commissioners if they would approve the request to grant the project $250,000 over the next five years, coming to $50,000 a year.

"We believe in this project we thing it's going to be an asset to this community," Allen said.

"Its not just a benefit for the arts or a benefit for specific groups we see it as a benefit for the entire community, businesses and otherwise," he said.

Commissioner David Blust asked about long-term sustainability and how much the county would be asked to give every year to the theatre.

"I ask that because the county used to give money to the theatre in Blowing Rock and then they found out they couldn't sustain it."

Blust was referring to the Hayes Performing Arts Theater in Blowing Rock, which was bought by Samaritan's Purse in 2012 after years of attempts at self-sufficiency failed. 

The non-profit organization bought the building, constructed at a cost of almost $10 million, for $1,493,100.

Allen said that the venue in Blowing Rock was much smaller in comparison to the Appalachian Theatre.

"That led directly to ticket sales and it's ability to support itself," Allen said.

Commissioner Billy Kennedy said that the theatre also had budgeted a three-year marketing plan.

"They have a whole marketing plan that they have been working with and bringing in and looking at different types of components," Kennedy said.

Commissioner Perry Yates asked Allen where people were supposed to park in downtown Boone to go to the theatre.

"It would be nice to look at the slope of the land to maybe ask the town to put into a parking deck," Yates said. "Not only would it be a nice parking situation but it would generate revenue."

"My belief is that this is better through the TDA," Chairman Nathan Miller said.

"If you are trying to rely on the Watauga County population to support the theatre it will die, so you need to draw from other counties," he said.

Miller and Kennedy said that the board would have to look at the budget before they committed to anything.

The board unanimously voted to table the request until their budget meeting on Thursday.