I read with interest the two proposals brought to the Gays Mills Village Board last week regarding the future of our old community building on Main Street. The Lighthouse group proposal looks to me like a continuation of the status quo; keeping the building available for activities that have occurred there in the past, and new activities that develop in the future. The group proposes to lease the building for one year with the option to buy it at the end of that year, ostensibly to test their idea with a one-year trial.
The Kickapoo Theatre Restoration Group takes a different approach. They want to restore the building to its previous existence as a theatre seating 300, restoring the historic beauty and acoustics of the interior, while adding modern state-of-the-art improvements including a sound studio, art gallery, dressing rooms, lighting equipment, more storage, and a larger backstage area. One-third of the theatre seats will be removable for events that require open area for a dance floor, orchestra pit, or other uses This would be a more expensive project, but the group expressed confidence the funds can be raised from federal and state agencies, arts foundations, benefactors, and other fundraising--and they should know, as some in their group are experienced at these kind of projects, including the Temple Theater in Viroqua and other restorations. This approach would allow many of the building's current uses to continue, and will also make Gays Mills a destination for film buffs, theatregoers, art patrons, musicians, and music lovers. This will bring people to our town who appreciate the history of the building and the community, and who have money to spend here.
The Lighthouse group's proposal appears practical, but the missing piece is that I believe the village subsidized the expenses of maintaining the building to keep it available to the community. I don't think the Lighthouse group will be able to do that.
The Kickapoo Theatre proposal on the other hand, creates the opportunity for new streams of income to support the building. And I love the idea of augmenting the cultural life and resources of Gays Mills, while enshrining a bit of our local history. The opening of our new community center creates an opportunity to think big and do something really exciting and potentially profitable for the economics of our community.
I hope the village will choose the Kickapoo Theatre Restoration. It may look more costly up front, but it will enrich our community in many ways long into the future.