A “Take Your Seat” campaign, in which contributors sponsor a seat in the soon-to-be renovated Missouri Theatre Center for the Arts, will start April 2 as part of the next step in raising money to restore and expand the theater.
Each seat will receive a nameplate that commemorates someone or something designated by the sponsor.
The campaign will raise $820,000 if all 1,187 seats are sponsored. Seats start at $250.
“Take Your Seat” is part of an overall effort to raise $6.6 million for the renovation and expansion of the theater, which opened in 1928. So far, $4.5 million has been raised.
“The ‘Take Your Seat’ campaign is vital to the development of the capital campaign,” said David A. White, executive director of the Missouri Theatre, after a news conference Tuesday morning.
But “Take Your Seat” was not the main reason the two dozen or so capital campaign leaders gathered on the theater’s wood-floored stage. Rather, they announced the “silent” portion of the campaign begun six months ago has slightly exceeded its $1.5 million goal.
The largest contribution to date has been $500,000 from the estate of Columbia arts supporter Mary Nell Porter, White said. A release from the fundraising campaign said that the Columbia Convention and Visitors Bureau awarded the project $250,000 and that city and corporate donations total $818,965 so far.
White said there are $500,000 worth of grants out on request now, and he expects that another $500,000 will go out before June.
Retired Circuit Judge Ellen Roper, a campaign committee member, said after the news conference that there have been individual donations of $25,000 and $50,000. She said people have donated money to name the elevator, lobby, staircases and one of the handicap-accessible dressing rooms.
She said White has been coming up with creative ideas for ways to cut costs during the renovation and expansion, including possibly using community service workers to help remove the theater’s plush-red seats.
Architects have estimated the project will cost $6.5 million, Roper said. If more money is raised than is needed for building and operating costs, it will go into an endowment fund to be used to make the new facility available to community groups at a lower rate, she said.
On Aug. 1, the Missouri Theatre will officially close and the renovation project will begin; businesses next door must move. The final performance before that will be by the Missouri Symphony Society.
White and Roper alluded to future plans for the campaign but would not be more specific.