Avalon on time, within budget

Downtown theater-renovation project coming along nicely

Grand Junction city councilors take a closer look at construction work going on at the Avalon Theatre. This is the view looking out from the stage.

Every two days, Sheryl Thompson gets inside the Avalon Theatre to snap some pictures.

The event operations supervisor with Two Rivers Convention Center is thrilled to see a bumped up stage, more room for seats on the balcony and the framework for the new digital projector.

“We’ve struggled with the old way,” she said during a tour Monday with Grand Junction city councilors as construction crews toiled inside. “To get this new stuff will make it fabulous.”

Many of the inside changes will be evident to Avalon Theatre-goers, though plenty of alterations affect behind-the-scenes operations. For example, during the summer months theater operators would have to set the air conditioning at a cool 65 degrees early in the morning for the hall to be cool enough for a nighttime performance, Thompson said.

“Otherwise it would be way too hot in here,” she said.

Newly installed heating and cooling systems solve that dilemma.

Or, take for example, another little-known fact about the former Avalon. Previously, to change out the stage lights, a brave soul had to climb a ladder through the ceiling near the back of the facility at the former projection room and traverse the length of the hall on a plywood plank to perform the duty. Soon, crews will finish building a ladder hidden behind a false wall near the stage and a steel stage walk for future stage hands to easily ready for performances.

Work completed lately includes a stage that is eight feet closer to the audience. The entire interior has been gutted and a portion of the new concrete floor has been poured. The portion of the floor closest to the stage is flat, a space that could be utilized for a temporary orchestra. Previously, there was room for perhaps two wheelchairs in the auditorium, but new construction will have space for about 20. The Avalon had roughly 920 seats previously, but that number will be increased to 1,100 by the time construction is finished.

The projection room has been taken down, and the whole balcony is laid in tiered plywood, soon to be home to 450 of the total seats.

“The mezzanine feels a lot roomier than it did before,” said Brian Young, a foreman with FCI Constructors, the construction company working on the project.

The project is progressing along on time and within budget, with an expected completed date of June 1.

To date about 300 individuals or corporations have donated an average of $4,700, according to a report by Robin Brown, development director of the fundraising effort, The Avalon Cornerstone Project.

The total cost of phase one is $8.2 million.

Brown said her group is unveiling a fundraising effort called “Take Your Seat” seeking donations of any amount.

“Up until now, we’ve focused on donors over $5,000,” she said. “Whether it’s $25, every dollar counts.”

The goal for this campaign is $500,000 and will run from February through April. Foundation members said they need to raise more money to add back in amenities that were stripped from the project.

John Halvorson, president of the Avalon Theatre Foundation, said his group has a loose-knit agreement with Home Loan that it can take out a loan for $300,000 to $400,000 if pledges don’t come through.

“The downside to borrowed money is the interest,” he said. “It’s looking to me we won’t need it.”


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