The Pollard Theatre is hopeful they will be able to land a grant that will help provide assistance to restore and preserve the theatre, including an essential upgrade to the theatre’s current lighting system, ensuring long-term sustainability for generations of patrons.
The Pollard will be submitting a grant proposal to the State of Oklahoma’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) portal in the amount of $400,000 to make building/equipment repairs.
In return, the City of Guthrie will match 20% — up to $100,000 — from the City’s ARPA Funds if the Pollard is awarded the grant.
The city council approved the resolution 6-0 in their Nov. 16 meeting.
The City will receive a total of $2 million in ARPA funding. Half of the funding was received in September and the other half is expected in September 2022. The State of Oklahoma will receive a total of $1.9 billion in ARPA funding.
On March 11th, 2021, President Biden signed into law the ARPA to provide Coronavirus State and Local Fiscal Recovery Funds to every municipality in America.
Projects must fall under four categories, including economic development workforce, health and human services, transportation, infrastructure and rural development and government transportation.
“In our minds, the Pollard is an economic development tourism generator,” City Manager Leroy Alsup said. “If we are going to attract young families, entrepreneurs, young professionals to Guthrie and continue to grow our community, you got to have these types of things (arts, good schools).”
As part of the sponsorship agreement, the Pollard would recognize the City as a sponsor, promote their facility to enhance the City’s tourism efforts, host film festivals, serve as a site location to help films and promote arts through community outreach efforts.
The City was encouraged by Lt. Governor Matt Pinnell to look at a tourism related project with the available funding. Pinnell visitied with members of the Guthrie community on Nov. 4 inside City Hall’s third floor.
“In his mind, Guthrie is the tourism mecca of Oklahoma,” Alsup said of the Lt. Governor. “He wants to keeps us in the forefront of tourism and economic development.”
Senator Chuck Hall, who is part of the legislative committee who will help handle the distribution of the funding, told city officials that a local, matching grant would make the grant a more competitive bid.
The pandemic forced the closure of the Pollard Theatre, as well as the theatre industry nationwide, for a significant amount of time, including their Christmas production of It’s a Wonderful Life, a main revenue generator for both the theatre and the City as a whole.
Overall, 100 performances were cancelled. With a house capacity of 268, an estimate of 250 people performance would be about 25,000 people that did not attend Pollard performances due to the pandemic closure.
Even as they re-opened for a 34th season, equipment failures and building repairs have proven to be barriers necessitating outside assistance for sustained operations. Related article: Pollard Theatre suffers setback; production halted until November
“We are optimistic our state administrators will recognize the importance of this project and its far-reaching impact in increasing tourism and spurring economic activity in the region by drawing visitors to Guthrie’,” Pollard Theatre’s Executive Director Kara Luther-Chapman said. “We are honored to have continued support from Senator Hall and Representative Mize and grateful for their continued work in demonstrating our institutions significance.”
The City’s Tourism Director Justin Fortney added for every ticket purchased at the Pollard Theatre, the national average says they will spend an additional $50 on dining and shopping.
“This is an investment into economic development. That’s an investment into our downtown,” Fortney said.