JOLIET – Ed Czerkies, whose $350,000 donation to the Rialto Square Theatre more than a year ago was aborted amid the marquee controversy, has been offering some suggestions lately to the theater’s board.
The marquee mess initiated a chain of events that has led to the current Rialto crisis.
In just the past week, General Manager Randy Green has been put on leave as attorneys try to reach an exit agreement.
Joliet City Manager Jim Hock has provided promoters for upcoming events a letter of guarantee that obligates the city to pay the acts if the Rialto doesn’t have the money. And, the City Council scheduled a meeting for 5:30 p.m. Monday to discuss future Rialto funding among other things.
Amid all this, Czerkies has showed up at two recent Rialto meetings urging the board to take a more aggressive approach to lease empty office space as a source of revenue.
“I can’t believe all this space is sitting there, and the county’s running around leasing space,” Czerkies said at one point. “I don’t know what everybody’s doing here.”
In addition to controlling the Rialto Square Theatre, the board that oversees it also has control of about 100,000 square feet of adjacent office space. The Midland States Bank branch on the corner of Chicago and Van Buren streets, just outside the theater, is in space leased by the Rialto.
But about half the office space controlled by the Will County Metropolitan Exposition and Auditorium Authority, commonly called the Rialto board, is empty.
Czerkies, a successful businessman with real estate experience, at the last two board meetings has told the board it needs to take a new approach to leasing. He also has been critical at times, especially when told the board’s Finance Committee typically meets about three times a year.
“The condition of this theater – they should be meeting every two weeks,” Czerkies told the board.
Rialto board member James V. Smith, a real estate appraiser and head of the board’s Real Estate Committee, said the office space is a dubious asset.
Smith said when the Rialto governing body was created in 1982, it got, along with the theater, office space that was 25 percent leased at a time that business was leaving downtown Joliet.
“They gave us a three-legged plow mule,” Smith told Czerkies. “It didn’t work.”
Czerkies urged the board to begin consulting John Bays, who leases office space to Will County and is providing space for First Midwest Bank’s future downtown location. Czerkies said downtown business people have a stake in the success of the Rialto.
He also argued that the next general manager can’t be expected to run both the theater and the commercial office operations of the Rialto. Czerkies told the board it needs a theater manager and an office manager.