ELIZABETHTON, Tenn. (WJHL) – Elizabethton city leaders said they support efforts to renovate the historic Bonnie Kate Theater in hopes that it would improve their chances of receiving a half-million-dollar grant for improvements.
The City of Elizabethton applied for a $500,000 grant from the Appalachian Regional Commission (ARC). If approved, the city would be required to match $236,736 in funds.
Bonnie Kate Boardmember and Elizabethton City Councilman Jeff Treadway said that show of support improves their chances to be awarded the grant.
Elizabethton City Council voted unanimously in support of the grant application at Thursday night’s meeting.
“I just can’t say how much a shot in the arm that amount of funding would do for us,” Treadway said.
The grand total between the grant and matched funds would be $736,736 if ARC approves the city’s application.
The total cost of the planned renovations is $1.35 million, which means the grant would pay for over half of the renovation budget.
Some renovations, including new roofing and fire sprinklers, have already been installed.
Originally built in 1926, the theater has fallen into disrepair. Treadway said several repairs are necessary, including new lightning, curtains, sound systems and soundproofing, flooring, and seating.
“We’ll remove our seating that we have now that’s basically hotel-type banquet chairs. We’ll replace it hopefully with some comfortable theater seats,” Treadway said. “We have really good acoustics, but you look around and you see tattered drapes and floors that are scarred.”
Treadway said the stage itself would also be renovated.
Local jazz musician Erin Dalton said the renovations would make Bonnie Kate a destination for performers and patrons alike.
“With it being such an old building there are probably just some really practical things that need to be renovated. That’s only going to draw people in more,” Dalton said. “You got this grandiose, historic theater. It puts a lot of effort into bringing the arts into the community.”
But the renovations go much further than the stage. Treadway said the second floor would also receive a facelift.
The plan is to transform several rooms upstairs into low-rent studios for local artists. Treadway said Bonnie Kate would offer business classes to help artists turn their creativity into viable businesses.
This is the city’s third attempt to get the ARC grant, but it’s the first time their application has made it past the pre-application process.
Treadway believes the city’s chances of winning the grant are promising.
He said ARC typically funds infrastructure projects, but with so many localities using their American Rescue Plan funds, this arts and culture project may get the grant.
“Because they funded a lot of water, sewer projects with the ARP money this year, I think some of the normally lower-categorized projects are going to make it, and that’s probably us,” Treadway said.
Treadway said the city will know if they’ve won the grant in late Summer.
He said other grants are in the works to fund the remaining renovations.