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Local News

Outside companies interested in running Rialto Square Theatre

JOLIET – Two companies pitched proposals to manage the Rialto Square Theatre to the theater’s board on Wednesday.

The presentations were made at a time when the Rialto is struggling to pay bills and has virtually stopped booking acts. But executives from both companies appeared eager for the Rialto’s business if the board decides to hire a third-party manager.

“We’d be ready to start virtually immediately,” Steven Peters, president of VenuWorks, told the Rialto board. His company provides management and consulting services to more than 50 venues, including historic theaters, in 12 states.

Ron Onesti, who heads Onesti Entertainment Corp. and manages the Arcada Theatre in St. Charles, told the board of his previous impressions while walking through the Rialto and thinking about the theater’s potential.

“I thought, man, if I could have this, what I would do – never knowing there would be an opportunity,” Onesti told the board.

The board may hear two other proposals, including one from Harrah’s Entertainment, although it’s not clear whether the casino company is interested in managing the Rialto.

The Rialto board is considering the option of third-party management while it also interviews candidates for the vacant general manager’s job as it weighs the future direction of the theater.

Former General Manager Randy Green was forced out in April as the Rialto became dependent on the city to cover its payroll taxes and pay performers’ fees.

Board officials emphasized that they have not decided which direction to take.

“We’re looking at any and all options,” board Chairman Dan Vera said. “We’ve had people reach out to us who would just manage the real estate. That’s an option.”

Another option is selling real estate, which the board will consider at another meeting scheduled for next Wednesday.

The board plans to consider whether it should put up for sale two office buildings north of the theater, Two Rialto Square and the Terminal Building. Both buildings are owned by the Will County Metropolitan Exposition and Auditorium Authority, the official name of the board that oversees the Rialto Square Theater and adjacent office space.

Most of the meeting on Wednesday was devoted to presentations by Onesti Entertainment and VenuWorks. The board expects to hear presentations at future meetings from Harrah’s and SMG, a Pennsylvania-based company that manages theaters and other venues worldwide.

Onesti Entertainment is a St. Charles-based company that also manages shows at other venues.

VenuWorks is based in Ames, Iowa. The company recently took over management of US Cellular Coliseum in Bloomington.

Both Onesti and Peters said they did not have a detailed understanding of the Rialto’s finances. But both appeared eager to get the theater’s business, bringing other people affiliated with their companies as part of the presentations.

Peters brought with him three executive directors from other VenuWorks theaters and convention centers as well as the company’s vice president of food and beverage, while suggesting they would be able to take over quickly if the Rialto was interested.

“We can start very, very fast,” he said.

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