Celebrating its 125th anniversary this year, the Wright Opera House is undergoing major renovations as part of its capital campaign.
The capital campaign is a five to seven year restoration project funded by donations, grants and business sponsorships. Every dollar raised goes toward renovation projects, not business operations, said the Wright’s executive director, Josh Gowans.
“The primary focus in the renovation is to make (the Wright) a modern, usable facility that people are comfortable in,” he said. “We want to make it a flexible community venue.”
By flexible community venue, Gowans explained that the group is working to maintain the historic feel to the theater while making sure it is functional to support multiple uses.
The first major project the Friends of the Wright have taken on is the construction of a formal box office.
If you’ve walked into the theater lately, you’ve no doubt noticed the construction taking place in the main lobby. The box office will create a workspace for ticket sales and information.
“It demonstrates progress as soon as you walk through the door… It shows that we are taking steps to renovate the Wright,” said Gowans. “Folks want to see progress and they want to see plans, and we’re showing that with the box office.”
A formal box office also paves the way for the addition of an elevator and a redesigned staircase, an important first step to make the theater accessible to all its guests.
Total cost of the elevator, stairs and box office is budgeted at $250,000, of which the organization currently has $60,000 in the bank. This phase will affect the next line of work, as each project influences the next. Though Gowans said they hoped for a November completion date, work toward the elevator and stairs are scheduled for 2014.
Alongside this “accessibility” phase, the Friends are working toward restoring the theater’s roof, which has been financially backed by donations from the community and a grant from the State Historical Fund. The organization also applied for a second grant from the fund to restore the building’s foundation, though it won’t receive information on approval until August.
The community has played a large part in the restoration of the Wright as donations have helped the organization move steadily to make these improvements.
“I think it’s fabulous and incredible that a community like this opened up their pockets to make this begin to happen. That’s what Ouray County is all about,” said business manager Rennie Ross.
It’s the Wright’s goal to be sensitive to the community and to solicit thoughts and feedback from its donors. Friends of the Wright will host a series of informal gatherings and donor appreciations to demonstrate plans and progress. Feedback shapes the projects, Gowans said.
“Our ultimate goal is to demonstrate that the Wright is part of this community and it’s up to us, all of the community, to take ownership of it and make this restoration happen,” he said.
Information about the capital campaign and restoration projects are on the theater’s website at http://thewrightoperahouse.org.