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Local News

Rialto weighs future of marquee in mid-production

JOLIET – The newly formed Rialto Marquee Advisory Committee talked Wednesday about what to do with the sign that is “in pieces” at an Indiana factory.

Co-Chair Chris Clott said he went to the Landmark Sign Group factory and has pictures of the marquee. The sign has an uncertain future but already has cost the Rialto Square Theatre $171,000.

“I made a special trip to get information about it and took pictures so you all can see it,” Clott told the committee. “I took a slew of pictures.”

Production of the sign was stopped amid opposition to a design that would have included a tribute to the parents of donor Ed Czerkies. The retired Joliet businessman pulled back his $350,000 donation when the Rialto board would not commit to the memorial staying on the marquee.

The marquee committee and 15 people who attended the meeting had mixed opinions on whether any work should continue on the marquee in mid-production.

“The status of the new sign is irrelevant,” said Brian Nelsen, a person attending the meeting.

Committee member Mary Beth Gannon, a leader of the Rialto Belongs to the People group that headed opposition to the Czerkies marquee, suggested that Grate Signs in Joliet and other sign companies be brought in to see if the existing marquee can be restored and improved.

Gannon also said that the Rialto board’s statement last week that it failed to follow state bidding law when awarding the contract to Landmark “can make the whole thing null and void.”

Other members, however, said they need to look at opportunities to adapt the marquee in production to a new design and use it.

Steve Randich, vice president of the Rialto Square Theatre Foundation that raises money for the theater, said whether the sign is used or not “we have to pay for it.”

Michael Turk, a Joliet city councilman, said, “If modifications can be made that please the majority of people here, I think it’s the best of both worlds.”

The committee also heard a presentation from architect Douglas Gilbert, a preservation consultant who served as past chair of the Illinois Historic Sites Advisory Council.

Gilbert said after looking at artist’s drawings of the proposed marquee design in mid-construction he concluded that it met general preservation standards. But, he added that the design could have been improved by incorporating elements from the four marquees at the Rialto since it opened in 1926.

“Is this OK? Yes,” Gilbert said of the marquee design. “Is it what I would have chosen? No.”

The committee plans to meet two more times on March 18 and April 1 before sending a report to the Will County Metropolitan Exposition and Auditorium Authority, the board that oversees the Rialto.

Clott said he expects the next meeting to be long as the committee delves into issues surrounding the marquee project. The meeting will be 5 p.m. at the University of St. Francis building at 16 W. Van Buren St. in downtown Joliet.

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