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Local News

Rialto ends fiscal year with loss, seeks marquee solution

JOLIET – The Rialto Square Theatre board heard Wednesday that it ended the fiscal year with a loss of about $9,000, which included $171,000 spent on a new marquee that was stopped in mid-production.

The unfinished marquee may not be a total loss.

Parts already built may be used if the board goes ahead with the idea of upgrading the existing marquee with digital lights and an electronic message board.

Rialto administrators are seeking price estimates for an upgrade of the existing marquee and will report to the board when it next meets on Aug. 26.

Once the board hears the potential price tag, it will decide whether to move forward with the plan to upgrade the existing marquee rather than finish the one sitting in pieces at the Indiana factory of Landmark Sign Group. The upgrade was recommended by a special committee created to examine the marquee controversy.

Board member David Thornton, chairman of the Finance Committee, said the marquee was not the only financial issue faced in the last fiscal year, which ended in June.

“We had tight cash flows for several reasons,” said Thornton, mentioning also a slow start to ticket sales for the last theater season.

But Rialto General Manager Randy Green said after the meeting that the money spent on the marquee otherwise would have been available to pay bills and do needed maintenance at the theater.

The Rialto had to dig into its own pockets to pay Landmark after donor Ed Czerkies took back a $350,000 donation amid the backlash against the marquee design, which included a memorial to Czerkies’ parents that raised objections from the critics.

Green said the final costs of the marquee will not be known until the board makes a final decision and the bids come in on the work. He said he did not know the full costs of upgrading the existing marquee or where the money will come from.

“I don’t have a dollar to pay for that yet,” Green said.

If the Rialto board, whose official name is the Will County Metropolitan Exposition and Auditorium Authority, moves ahead with an upgrade of the existing marquee, it will go out for bids on electrical work and painting needed for the project.

One citizen in the audience questioned why the Rialto was not bidding out electronic components that would be used for displaying messages on the board.

“We already own it,” Green answered, indicating the system Landmark built for the unfinished new sign can be used in the old marquee. “It has been determined that it can fit in the marquee structure.”

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