Local support needed 
to complete the Avalon

The renovation of the historic Avalon Theatre is nearing completion, but the money set aside for the project won’t be enough to cover construction costs.

To have a gleaming facility with all the amenities originally envisioned at the onset of construction will cost an additional $1.45 million. Someone — either the city or private donors — is going to have come up with the shortfall to make the vision a reality.

“What this story needs,” Dr. Phil would say, “is a hero.”

The Avalon has the potential to be a cornerstone of civic life in this community with a significant long-term economic impact. The Stocker Stadium project offers a parallel. Making improvements to that facility did not require the direct use of tax dollars, but it did yield several benefits to the community. It secured a long-term agreement to host the Alpine Bank Junior College World Series and landed us a minor league baseball team.

Having “jewels” like the Avalon and Stocker Stadium is part of a vision to create an energetic, vibrant city with a growing array of cultural amenities. Anyone who focuses solely on costs without factoring in benefits will never appreciate the value of such undertakings. And jewels aren’t jewels if they’re unpolished rocks.

We appreciate the tough position the City Council finds itself in. After learning Monday that construction costs exceed cash on hand, it decided to bring up the issue with the public at its next meeting March 5.

It will have to decide whether to pony up additional money, which would affect the City Council’s ability to spend in other areas, or let the project go unfinished. As Councilor Barbara Traylor-Smith observed, “At the end of the day, if we have this building and it’s not built out, it’s not going to be useful.”

Waiting to complete the project in piecemeal fashion would probably result in even higher construction costs.

We kicked off the new year asking our local civic leaders to “dare greatly.” But that challenge extends to the entire community. It would be an easier decision for council members if they heard from citizens who said, “Yes, I want to live in a community that supports projects like the Avalon because I think it improves the quality of life.”

It took a collaboration among the city, the Downtown Development Authority and the Avalon Theatre Foundation, plus a grant from the Department of Local Affairs, to generate the $8.3 million that got the project this far. That’s admirable. It would be a shame for that effort to yield something less than what we deserve.


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