JOLIET – The marquee that Joliet didn’t want is coming to town – at least an unfinished version of it.
The Rialto Square Theatre is bringing in parts of the marquee that was stopped mid-construction when an unveiling of the design in late 2014 generated an opposition movement.
Interim Executive Director Jack Ericksen said the sign should arrive this week.
He also said the Rialto is making progress in a fundraising effort to upgrade the existing marquee.
The plan is to put part of the new sign that says “Rialto Square Theatre,” along with an electronic message board, on the back of the theater, which faces Scott Street. In the past, Rialto officials have noted the Scott Street side has decent exposure to traffic – both from vehicles and the Metra commuter rail lines.
The Rialto, however, still needs to raise money to install the rear sign and restore the old marquee that is on the theater. Total costs are estimated at $191,000 and the Rialto has raised about $48,000.
The combined restoration with partial use of the new sign was the resolution reached after the formation of an advisory committee in the aftermath of a controversy that resulted in scrapping the original marquee plan, refunding $350,000 to the donor and paying Landmark Sign Group about $200,000 for work already done.
Ericksen, who also is chief fundraiser for the Rialto, is upbeat and sees a willingness among donors to contribute to the theater again.
“Some of the positives at the Rialto give donors confidence that we’re going in the right direction,” he said.
The Rialto, troubled by controversy and financial setbacks since the marquee debacle, enjoyed a recent wave of goodwill during its 90th anniversary celebrations in May. Theater leadership also is charting a new course, with plans to hire third-party management after parting ways with general manager Randy Green in April.
“Once we put the Scott Street sign up with running lights, we’ll also recognize the major donors as often as possible for at least a one-year period,” Ericksen said.
Major donors are those who contribute $20,000 or more.
First Midwest Bank has made a $20,000 contribution to the sign project. The Rialto also got a $28,000 grant from the Route 66 Corridor Preservation Program, which is administered by the National Park Service.
Joliet car dealer Terry D’Arcy donated $4,000 to pay for the cost of transporting the unfinished marquee from Landmark Sign Group’s plant in Indiana.
The sign will be kept in storage until the Rialto has the money to install it, and the Rialto is getting help there, too, Ericksen said.
“It will be stored at Grate Signs [in Joliet],” he said. “Cheryl Grate has been wonderful about it.”