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Local News

Onesti back in as player in bid for Rialto Square Theatre management

The Rialto Square Theatre on Dec. 23, 2013.
The Rialto Square Theatre on Dec. 23, 2013.

JOLIET – The search for a third-party manager at the Rialto Square Theatre took some new twists Monday.

Pinnacle Venue Services introduced Ron Onesti as part of its “team” in the midst of an online petition drive aimed at getting Onesti the job.

Onesti, who runs the Arcada Theatre in St. Charles, had made a pitch for third-party manager but was not one of the two finalists picked by a Rialto committee that held its last meeting Monday. He is being promoted, however, by a Rialto board member who helped start the petition drive.

The Rialto board meets at 4 p.m. Wednesday to pick between Pinnacle, which is based in Virginia Beach, Virginia, and VenuWorks, which is based in Ames, Iowa. Both companies made final presentations to the selection committee on Monday.

Onesti spoke to the Rialto committee on Monday while taking part in the Pinnacle presentation and then went to a City Council workshop meeting, where his supporters suggested that the council intervene on Onesti’s behalf. Onesti also spoke to the council.

The council decided to ask Rialto Chairman Dan Vera to appear before them at their meeting on Tuesday to discuss the selection process.

“I’ve been getting dozens of questions about the process,” O’Dekirk said after the meeting, adding that Vera may be able to clarify some things.

The push for Onesti is being led at least in part by Rialto board member Mary Beth Gannon, who backed Onesti while the rest of the selection committee ranked it last among the five companies that submitted proposals.

Gannon at the meeting gave kudos to Pinnacle for making Onesti part of its team.

“I’d really like to commend you for recognizing that this community, this area, wants Onesti to be part of the Rialto,” said Gannon.

Onesti described his arrival to the Pinnacle team as “a curve ball” when talking to the Rialto committee.

“It’s as much as a shock to me as it is to you, folks,” he said.

Pinnacle managing partner Doug Higgons told the committee that his company would work with Onesti’s Arcada Theatre in promoting shows and bringing acts to the Rialto.

“I believe that our relationship with Ron and his theater down in St. Charles will be a huge benefit with us working together,” Higgons said.

VenuWorks, meanwhile, gave a final presentation described by Rialto’s newest board member, Michael Murray, as “very thorough, very well thought out.”

VenuWorks President Steve Peters started out the presentation showing city subsidies at theaters he said were comparable to the Rialto as an indication on how the company can manage finances at the facilities it operates.

Subsidies are an issue for the Rialto, since it has depended on $600,000 in annual city funding that it may not get next year.

The subsidies presented by Peters ranged from $5,600 at the Adler Theater in Davenport, Iowa, to $88,000 at the Ames Center in Burnsville, Minnesota.

Peters proposed reducing the Joliet subsidy to the Rialto to $125,000 over three years. But he called the timetable “aggressive.”

“These aren’t guarantees,” he told the Rialto committee. “There’s a lot we’ve got to know about your budget.”

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