Funding options to restore Lyric Theatre discussed

A pedestrian walks in front of the Lyric Theatre on Seneca Street on Wednesday. The renovation at the theater is moving along. (By Richard Sayer)
From staff reports

For years, the Colonel Drake Cultural Alliance has been attempting to restore the Lyric Theatre.

During its 22nd annual meeting on Tuesday night in the building, at 216 Seneca St. in downtown Oil City, the Cultural Alliance discussed several options for securing funds to push the project forward. The Cultural Alliance manages the old theater on behalf of the owner, Community Playhouse.

The Lyric was built in 1927 as a vaudeville house and was later converted into a 600-seat movie theater.

The building was later purchased by Ray L. Way Menswear Shop. In 2001, Community Playhouse purchased the property.

The fully restored Lyric is expected to feature building security and safety systems, 100 percent compliance with the state energy conservation code, large multipurpose and street-visible lobby – including a coat room, concession area and restrooms – auditorium (complete with 217 seats) and a fully functional stage area.

The project will cost $1.4 million dollars, Cultural Alliance President Joe Boland said.

Cultural Alliance Vice President Gary Dittman said that is the minimum amount needed to get the doors open at the Lyric, and it didn’t include the cost of the stage renovations or the lights.

As a part of the meeting, Ashley Stevens, of Stevens Consulting in Pittsburgh, gave an overview of the grant writing process and how the Cultural Alliance can secure funding for the restoration project.

“We were able to secure smaller grants (on our own),” Boland said. “But she’s been very helpful with getting bigger grants.”

Stevens mentioned alternative sources of funding for the project, such as naming rights for the lobby or crowd-funding opportunities.

Stevens advised that the Cultural Alliance should also consider engaging Venango Technology Center students in project labor as well as Eagle Scouts who are looking for projects.

Phase one of the four-phase project will cost between $150,000 to $180,000, which covers the lobby and facade, Boland said.

However, to complete phase one of the restoration, Boland said, the Cultural Alliance has been looking for smaller grants to help reach the goal.

“That will take care of any water problems, and that would make it easier to work on in the winter,” Boland said.

Dittman said the Cultural Alliance has currently raised $56,000 for phase one.

There are six main areas of focus for the project as a whole and it is expected to be completed within 12 months of the start date.

However, the restoration cannot start until the required amount for the first phase has been raised.

“We’re just awaiting funding at this point,” Dittman said.

Boland said the Lyric Theatre fits the area well. Of the two venues – The Lyric and The Barrow-Civic Theatre – in Venango County, the Lyric is smaller.

“It makes for a more intimate experience,” Boland said.