TBT launches major Capital Campaign

News Photo by Diane Speer Thunder Bay Theatre Managing Director Molly Stricker looks over a backstage area of the theater which has incurred major leakage in recent years. TBT is hoping funds raised through its Capital Campaign will enable the theater to make many needed upgrades to the aging building that was constructed in the late 1800s.

While the original brick building that houses Thunder Bay Theatre and its company of professional actors may be long on historic charm and character, it also comes with a major downside. Built in the late 1800s, the structure at 400 N. Second clearly shows its age these days with leaks in multiple areas, a crumbling facade and many other structural issues.

“We love our old building and the history that comes along with it, and would love to continue producing theater in this building for many years to come,” said TBT Artistic Director Jeffrey Mindock.

To ensure that’s possible, Mindock and other TBT officials have announced a major Capital Campaign with an initial $500,000 goal to be raised over the next five years. A campaign launch event held earlier this week allowed Mindock and TBT Managing Director Molly Stricker to outline the needs and the plan for raising the money.

“There are many, many things this building needs to be a safe structure for everyone,” Stricker told those gathered for the launch event. “We just haven’t had the funds to move forward.”

As a nonprofit, TBT has traditionally brought in just enough revenue to remain operational, but not to tackle any of the major renovations needed other than with a bandaid approach.

“We are at a crucial time in our history, and this Capital Campaign is of the utmost importance,” Mindock said. “In many ways, our building is on the verge of collapse. Each rainy day brings new leaks in the upstairs actor housing and backstage. Heating bills continue to rise because of poor insulation and old windows, and our external walls desperately need reinforcement.”

Backed with statistics, Mindock also spelled out the case for why TBT remains such a valuable cultural entity in Northeast Michigan. He said 8,000 people a year come through the theater and that 3,000 students in the region were exposed to TBT’s educational touring show held earlier in the spring.

Mindock said TBT also is the only year-round, live professional theater in a 120-mile radius, and that about half of the patrons attending shows come from outside the city of Alpena.

In making their pitch at this week’s launch event, Stricker and Mindock listed the following priority projects included under the campaign:

∫ Restructuring/re-bricking the Fletcher Street and Second Avenue walls

∫ Improving the facade with new paint and signage

∫ Fixing other structural problems

∫ Replacing and sealing all windows

∫ Updating entryway, lobby and box office

∫ Updating bathrooms

∫ Replacing old seats in the theater

∫ Making the warehouse a year-round workspace by sealing the back garage doors, adding insulation and heating

∫ Improving storage space and work space

∫ Beginning an endowment fund to improve quality of life and salaries for all future professional employees

Other needs listed should the campaign generate more than the $500,000 goal:

∫ Installing a new lighting grid

∫ Renovating the backstage, shop, green room and dressing rooms

∫ Updating the apartments with new paint, drywall and lighting fixtures

Tours of the building were then given to show firsthand the deterioration that has occurred over time, including major leakage in the backstage area where tarps, buckets and a pump help channel water that pours in during rain storms.

During the first year of the fundraising drive, TBT plans to seek major donors and potential match grants. Opportunities exist for major donors to have areas of the building named after them or their company. During the following years, TBT will seek community involvement, crowd funding and naming rights to smaller spaces such as seating or bricks.

Anyone wanting additional information about the campaign or ways to give may contact the theater at 354-2267.