Avalon next movement for symphony?

City, orchestra discussing deal to have performances at theater

The Avalon Theater at Seventh and Main Streets.

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The Grand Junction Symphony Orchestra and Grand Junction city officials have reopened talks about the symphony moving its performances to the Avalon Theatre, a move that could give the theater a primary tenant and revenue-generator.

Symphony Executive Director Michael Schwerin confirmed to The Daily Sentinel on Thursday that the orchestra and the Downtown Development Authority are discussing the possible relocation from the Grand Junction High School auditorium, although he noted that nothing has been finalized and many details must be worked out.

Still, Schwerin said, “the symphony is very interested in the prospect” of performing at the city-owned theater at the corner of Seventh and Main streets.

The fact the orchestra is interested in the Avalon represents a 180-degree shift from where the group stood less than a year ago after Avalon stakeholders downsized plans to renovate the 86-year-old theater.

The Avalon Theatre Advisory Committee had originally pitched a $14 million to $18 million project. That would have featured the construction of a second, 120-seat theater to show movies and an expansion of the stage that would have forced the back wall of the building to be knocked out.

But after a consultant’s feasibility study raised doubts that proponents could generate that much money, the committee voted to consider a more basic level of improvements that could cost $3 million to $5 million.

At that point, orchestra officials who had been courted to relocate said the Avalon was no longer an option.

Last October, Schwerin told the Sentinel the Avalon’s stage would need to be expanded to accommodate 70 musicians, and the acoustics would need to be improved to direct sound into the audience, rather than up into the ceiling.

“With the $5 million project, it just doesn’t address any of those issues,” Schwerin said at the time.

It’s unclear at this point whether the orchestra still is pushing for those improvements, what they might cost or who would pay for them. Schwerin declined to discuss any options the orchestra and DDA are exploring.

“We’re hoping we can go a little bit more public with things in the future,” he said.

The orchestra has performed in the 1,500-seat Grand Junction high school auditorium for most of its 32 years. But it has been looking at other options for a couple of years, given acoustical limitations at the high school and patron concerns about restrooms and parking.

Schwerin noted the orchestra recently ran into more scheduling conflicts with the high school than in years past.

Tim Seeberg, general manager of Two Rivers Convention Center and the Avalon, said the city is “excited about the possibilities that they’re working on, and we’re waiting for a letter of intent from their boards.”

DDA Executive Director Heidi Hoffman Ham could not be reached for comment Thursday.


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