Friday, December 27, 2013
Thalia Mara Hall is about to get a lot cooler.
The Jackson City Council is set to vote Monday on an agenda item that will pump an additional $1.89 million into the city's Department of Human and Cultural Services to provide "funds needed for an expanded scope of services determined essential for the Thalia Mara project."
That project includes a complete renovation of the theater, which needs major renovation before it hosts the International Ballet Competition, beginning June 14, 2014.
Thalia Mara Hall Director Michael Raff—former director of the city's Human and Cultural Services—said the building needs about $5 million in work, including replacing a 45-year-old HVAC unit, new chairs, carpet, restroom renovations and accessibility.
The lighting and sound system are also due an update, Raff added, and Americans with Disabilities Act-compliant seating is also a concern.
"The only ADA seating we currently have is on the back row," Raff said. "That's not fair. We want to make better seating available to folks in wheelchairs. Once you add all of these things together, you can see why it won't be hard to spend $5 million."
Thalia Mara will be open next week to be used in filming the James Brown biopic "Get On Up," but it will close its doors for five months after that to undergo renovations.
The city council voted 4-2 Nov. 19 in favor of adding a $5 surcharge to all ticket sales for events at Thalia Mara, once it reopens, to help pay for the renovations. Ward 1 Councilman Quentin Whitwell and Ward 7 Councilwoman Margaret Barrett-Simon voted against the measure, citing concerns about the effect the surcharge could have on the local arts community after the IBC packs up and moves on.
Raff said the state has kicked in $1 million top of the money the city is expected to pledge, and the private group "Friends of Thalia Mara Hall" has secured $1.3 million in pledged support, and hopes to raise more.
"We've got a fund set up through the Community Foundation of Greater Jackson so people can go through them to make a charitable donation," Friends of Thalia Mara spokeswoman Kelly Scrivner said. "The $1 million in matching funds from the state will go toward accessibility, and the city will be working on things like safety and air conditioning, so what Friends of Thalia Mara will be using its funds on are the cosmetic aspects of the renovation."
Scrivner added that the organization plans to continue raising money throughout the renovation.
Both Raff and Mayor Chokwe Lumumba cite economic studies showing that the economic impact the last time Jackson hosted the IBC in 2009 was approximately $10 million.