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Local News

Rialto Square Theatre funding deal falls through

Mayor Bob O'Dekirk and theatre officials toast to the Rialto Square Theatre on Wednesday, May 24, 2017, during a celebration at the Rialto Square Theatre in Joliet, Ill.
Mayor Bob O'Dekirk and theatre officials toast to the Rialto Square Theatre on Wednesday, May 24, 2017, during a celebration at the Rialto Square Theatre in Joliet, Ill.

JOLIET – Rialto Square Theatre funding has become a topic again for the city council.

Mayor Bob O'Dekirk broke the bad news Tuesday that the city was unable to work out the Rialto funding arrangement that he had hinted at previously.

The council may take a vote June 20 before releasing the second installment of annual Rialto funding, which totals $250,000.

Some questions were raised at the Tuesday council meeting about the Rialto's performance so far this year in terms of shows booked and whether acts have appeal to the entire community.

But O'Dekirk said the city plans to remain committed to funding the Rialto.

"We know that, at the city, we have never wavered on our commitment. I don't think we are going to in the future," O'Dekirk said.

The city initially did not include an annual contribution to the Rialto in its proposed budget for 2017, which led to some year-end tension before the council eventually approved $500,000 for the theater this year.

O'Dekirk's search for a dedicated funding source is a way to avoid the occasional budget drama that at times appears to threaten Rialto funding from the city.

A dedicated funding source would create a flow of money specifically directed to the Rialto.

O'Dekirk said he thought he had an arrangement worked out with Chicagoland Speedway to create a head tax or similar form of revenue at the track that would go to the Rialto.

"We thought we had an agreement," O'Dekirk said. "It turns out higher-ups at NASCAR were not in agreement. That has fallen off the table."

O'Dekirk said the city has other avenues being pursued as potential funding source.

"We are going to get a source of funding – a dedicated source," he said.

O'Dekirk repeated his previous call for Will County or other governmental bodies to provide financial support to the theater. He mention Joliet Township, which once sought to take over the city's Billie Limacher Bicentennial Park, and the state of Illinois as other possibilities.

In the meantime, the city remains the main source of Rialto funding.

The Rialto is scheduled to get its second installment of Rialto funding for the year on July 1.

Councilman Larry Hug, who typically objects to Rialto funding, questioned whether the Rialto has met the city's condition for 30 booked shows by June 30 to get the money. Hug said he has heard the question raised by people in the community and suggested the theater post a list of all booked shows.

Rialto Executive Director Valerie Devine on Wednesday said the theater has provided such a list to city hall, but not all shows on the list can be announced yet.

Devine said 35 shows have been booked, but "not all shows that are booked are common knowledge." Not all shows can be immediately announced because of agreements made with the performers, she said.

Devine also said the theater is working on shows and other events aimed at appealing to minority audiences.

"We are just putting the finishing touches on a gospel show that I think I mention in my presentation to the city (in May)," she said. "We are working with some local folks to put on that gospel competition."

Meanwhile, city council members on Tuesday briefly discussed whether the second installment of Rialto funding will be subject to a council vote.

Interim City Manager Marty Shanahan said, "I am certainly not going to issue a check without talking with council first."

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