JOLIET – The City Council on Tuesday entertained the idea of buying the Rialto Square Theatre – a possibility that the Rialto apparently is not welcoming.
Council members were not so sure they liked the idea either but directed the city manager to look into the matter.
There is no serious offer to buy or sell the Rialto.
But Mayor Bob O’Dekirk said the topic was discussed in closed session after the Monday council meeting, and he thought it should be made public at the Tuesday meeting.
O’Dekirk appeared to take the idea seriously, expressing some frustration over the city’s relationship with Rialto management.
“If we had control of the theater, we could control the business model,” O’Dekirk said. “Right now, we have no say. They don’t want to hear what we have to say. They’ve made that clear.”
O’Dekirk said he suggested the idea of buying the Rialto during a meeting with a new business group formed to advise the theater. At the meeting, the mayor was asked whether the city would consider buying 2 Rialto Square, an office building that the Rialto board owns but is considering selling. O’Dekirk said his response was, why not buy the theater?
The Rialto board apparently is not interested in selling the theater and believes it couldn’t if it wanted to.
“They commented to us through their attorney that they can’t sell the Rialto,” City Manager Jim Hock told the council. “They have no interest in selling the theater to us. That’s a hurdle you’d have to overcome.”
Councilman Jim McFarland said he did not think the city should consider buying the Rialto, saying Joliet has enough trouble with ownership of Silver Cross Field and funding completion of the multi-modal center under construction downtown.
“I don’t see how the city can afford to buy the Rialto,” McFarland said.
Councilwoman Jan Quillman said she was not sold on the idea, but she also did not want to see the theater shut down.
“We have to keep it vibrant somehow,” Quillman said.
The Rialto has yet to get itself back on track since severe cash-flow problems late last year put it behind on payroll taxes. The city stepped in to back shows to keep them from canceling but has since refused to send the Rialto more money.
The Rialto board now is looking at proposals to turn theater management over to a private company.