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O’Dekirk: Possible new funding for Rialto Square Theatre

A new source of funding for the Rialto Square Theatre could be announced next week, Joliet Mayor Bob O’Dekirk said recently.

The mayor’s comment followed a presentation by the theatre’s executive director and the Will County Metropolitan Exposition and Auditorium Authority Board’s chairman updating the public on progress.

The City of Joliet decided to find a long-term funding solution late last year, at which point city budget discussions focused, in part, on how to keep the downtown anchor operational.

Matters took a turn when members of the Will County Metropolitan Exposition and Auditorium Authority Board resigned from their posts. By Dec. 20, the Joliet City Council approved a $500,000 allotment to the Rialto Square Theatre.

Since that time, the downtown anchor has welcomed new members to its board of directors and a new executive director.

In the last five months, the current Rialto board has accomplished a number of feats: securing a multi-year agreement with VenuWorks to manage theatre operations, finalizing a $600,000 loan from the Rialto Square Theatre Foundation to pay off dues owed to vendors, resuming stage performances and exhibited involvement in community events.

The recent installation of a point of sales system allows staff to take credit cards at the bar, in addition to ensuring sales and inventory accountability.

The theatre has initiated a monthly inventory of food and beverages to better control the cost of goods sold. Staff also intends to roll out an enhance menu selection for increased ancillary sales during events.

“Since January, we have seen close to 7,500 patrons and enjoy a variety of talent on the stage,” said Valerie Devine, executive director of the Rialto Square Theatre. “Please note that this number does not include the dance competitions, recitals, luncheons, weddings, and other rental events.”

Rialto Board Chairman Bob Filatto recognizes the challenges the theatre continues to face and said the board must keep this in mind moving forward.

“We must balance financial risk with programming desires,” he said. “The Two Rialto North [Chicago Street] building in terms of retaining and attracting tenants is a deep, deep source of concern. And, of course, we need to look for a dedicated long-term funding source, which is an absolute necessity.”

To date, the theatre is on track to present 35 shows by the end of June. The agreement between the City of Joliet and the Rialto board approved late last year required at least 30 shows to permit the release of the remaining half of the theatre’s allotment.

“Looking ahead with the successful addition of Loretta Lynn, Three Dog Night and the reschedule of Olivia Newton-John, we are anticipating another 4,500 guests and counting, as ticket sales are still selling for those performances, in addition to the many other shows—some that have not been announced,” Devine said.

O’Dekirk credited the Rialto staff and administrators for the work they’ve done.

“It’s what needed to happen there,” O’Dekirk said.