You have to imagine this is what backers of the 2014 Avalon Theatre rehab project had in mind.

A schedule of top-line talent, sold out shows, and a bright future.

But while the 2014 Cornerstone Project was pushed across the line despite a rocky economic landscape, current conditions — and a fresh set of $50,000 donations looking for matches — have fundraisers seeing an opportunity to claw back some of the amenities left out of the original Cornerstone plan.

"The things that were left out, that we compromised on, were very performer-based and also staff-based," said Bryan Wade, Avalon Theatre Foundation development director. "And that's where we feel like we really have an opportunity to expand the theater again, and really make some strides in getting some of those more A-list type talents on stage.

"I think that's one of the things they look at when looking to come to town," Wade said, of top-level talent.

There are three packages of improvements that Wade thinks could get funded with a new, more aggressive funding campaign aimed at donors.

The most visible possible improvements are part of a plan for a flashy new wraparound digital marquee, which along with new digital poster cases and concession signage would "make the theater look complete," Wade says.

Fundraisers are also targeting patron improvements, most notably a canopy for the sun-soaked but spectacular rooftop terrace and shading for the glass-walled mezzanine — improvements critical to maximizing both amenities and drawing in new business.

The third set of proposed improvements are behind the scenes, but just as important, Wade argues — portable spotlights, lighting controls, and an internal operations communications system. Still further upgrades include adding a catering kitchen, more storage, and performer dressing rooms and bathrooms, Wade said.

The renewed energy to potentially tackle the projects is in part because of improved economic conditions, but also because of donation matches that are now on the table. The city — which owns the theater — has committed to match $50,000 for each of the next three years, and an anonymous donor has similarly pledged $50,000 if it can be matched.

Even after the essential upgrades in 2014 — which replaced cigarette-burned seats falling apart because of rot in the metal, fixed holes in the ceiling, eliminated the sometimes extreme temperature difference between floor level and the balcony, and sturdied bouncy 80-year-old wood in the upper reaches, among other changes — money has been raised to keep improving the Avalon.

Improvements in 2017 essentially finished off the Encore Hall, with new screen and projecting technology, basic networking, acoustic tiles, and a new advanced sound system.

A key change also came with the decision in 2017 to bring in a third party, Pinnacle Venue Services, to manage operations of the theater as well as Two Rivers Convention Center. Pinnacle's extended resources, Wade said, have allowed the theater to book top acts, like comedian Dave Chappelle who sold the place out last week.

In fact the theater had more sellout shows in 2018 than ever before, with 14 shows sold out including a two-show sellout for comedian Ron White.

In 2016, the theater logged 16 large ticketed events. Last year there were 39.

"This year, I think, is on track to be even a larger year, as far as those large ticketed events," Wade said.

A quick glance of the theater's remaining 2019 schedule flashes artist names like LeAnn Rimes, UB40, Lance Burton, Herb Alpert, Lyle Lovett, Bill Engvall, Michael Franti, and Three Dog Night.

"We have the potential to get this project pipeline done pretty soon," Wade said, with specific reference to the anonymous donor's recent pledge.

"It's there and it's waiting. We just need to unlock it."

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