Kalamazoo Civic Theatre launches $5 million renovations campaign

Posted at 7:44 PM, Feb 09, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-09 20:56:54-05

KALAMAZOO, Mich. — The Kalamazoo Civic Theatre is getting a makeover and it's kind of like Broadway meets HGTV.

The auditorium on Park street will begin renovations early this summer to upgrade their facility. They’ve launched a $5.1 million campaign to get it done and it's called the Art of Enriching Lives.

“I’m blown away by this,” said co-chair Sharon Seelye who along with her husband Mike made the campaign announcement Tuesday morning. “There are so many capital campaigns going on right now and to think that in the midst of all these capital campaigns we’ve already raised $3.8 million to me is phenomenal.”

Executive Director Kristen Chesak said the money raised will go directly to refurbishing the infrastructure. They’re excited to modernize the place by upgrading the HVAC system, providing wheelchair accessibility features, switching to L.E.D. lights and installing wifi. However they’re also looking to preserve some of the building’s originality.

“It’s still here,” said Chesak pointing to a row of old chairs. “It was the original furniture that somebody bought when this building opened in 1931.”

Since the theatre first opened, millions of people have watched their favorite plays like Peter Pan and Steel Magnolias. In 1960, it was the first community theatre in the country to present A Raisin in the Sun. It’s now considered one of the top five community theaters nationally. Representatives are asking the public to get involved to help raise money to ensure the theatre’s prominence continues.

“There’s so many people that appreciate the Kalamazoo Civic Center, the arts in our community that we haven’t even talked to yet,” said co-chair Mike Seelye about the campaign. “I’m very optimistic that we’ll hit that [goal] and beyond.”

Chesak said the first part of the renovation will be putting in a brand new copper roof that’ll take three-to-four months to complete. It's the first visible enhancement that people will see and like.

“We’ve always prided ourselves, I think from the beginning, that we’re the community’s theatre,” said Chesak.  “I'm hoping that everybody feels that ownership of this organization and will come on and help us.”