Yearend Top 10: Victory Theatre slated for Walton-funded renovations

Yearend Top 10: Victory Theatre slated for Walton-funded renovations

Garrette Moore
NWA Democrat-Gazette

Editor’s Note: As we do every year, The Free Weekly staff looked back to see what arts stories we published in 2022 that we expect will have a lasting impact on the culture of our community in 2023. We chose 10 — in no particular order — and this is Becca Martin-Brown’s first selection. It was written by Garrett Moore, who covers the city of Rogers for news, and was published Nov. 28. It’s been updated with a statement from Arkansas Public Theatre artistic director Ed McClure and operations manager Lisa Turpin.

An interior restoration project at Victory Theatre will make the downtown venue available for live music and larger crowds.

Seating capacity will increase from just over 200 to nearly 500 seats, transitioning out of the current dinner-theater setting, according to community development director John McCurdy.

An upgraded sound system will make it a better place for concerts, McCurdy said.

“These two improvements together will allow us to bring high-quality music events to downtown Rogers during the colder months, which will build upon our success with Railyard Live,” he said.

Railyard Live concerts and related downtown events this year drew an average of 700 people per event and saw revenue from ticket sales and table reservations almost double, he said recently.

Community-based nonprofit group Arkansas Public Theatre and its theatrical experiences will remain a part of the city-owned theater at 116 S. Second St.

The city will continue to look for ways to improve the building as a theatrical venue, according to McCurdy.

“We worked hand-in-hand with APT throughout this process,” he said. “Our commitment to APT was memorialized in 2008 and will continue via a space-sharing plan between APT and the city.”

Kinya Christian, the city’s arts and culture coordinator, said Rogers is dedicated to building on a “thriving arts and culture ecosystem” and celebrating “Rogers’ diversity, economic vitality and inspiring natural environment.”

“The Arkansas Public Theatre has, and will continue to be, an important part of this ecosystem,” Christian said.

At its meeting on Nov. 22, the City Council unanimously approved funding from the Walton Family Foundation and the city’s general fund reserve for the Victory Theatre project.

The Walton Family Foundation is contributing $710,000 to the restoration.

Design work and additional construction costs will be paid for by $150,000 from the city’s general fund reserve.

“The foundation recognizes that Rogers is a safe bet for their investments in regional placemaking,” McCurdy said.

The city’s partnership with Arkansas Public Theatre and programming at the venue is crucial for the downtown area, council member Betsy Reithemeyer said at the meeting.

The foundation is also contributing $270,000 in grant money for arts and culture programming across the city, matching the $270,000 allocated for that use in the city’s recently approved 2023 budget.

A person may eventually be hired to manage Victory Theatre and its events, according to McCurdy. The new position will depend on the council approving the use of city money. The Community Development Department plans to present a formal request to the council next summer, he said.

Late next summer is the estimate for starting the interior restoration, which will likely take four months, according to McCurdy.

Victory Theatre was designed by Rogers architect A.O. Clarke, according to the Arkansas Public Theatre website.

After its opening in December 1927, the theater was renovated several times as a movie and vaudeville theater before shutting down in the early 1970s, the site states.

The city bought Victory Theater in 2008 and agreed the 95-year-old facility would be Arkansas Public Theatre’s permanent home.

Rounds of exterior renovation work were completed on the building in 2013 and 2021, facilities manager David Hook said.

APT Update

“I hope our APT family of friends and volunteers are excited as I am about this new adventure,” says Ed McClure, artistic director for Arkansas Public Theatre. “We are honored the city of Rogers wants to enhance the Victory Theatre and continue to support APT as an important part of the entertainment district in our Historic District.”

“The impact on our supporters and friends will be tremendous because we will create an even more wonderful space and a new state-of-the-art sound system to enjoy our productions, along with other events that an updated and expanded facility can provide,” adds Lisa Turpin, operations manager.

“At this time, we are still finding our way with regards to scheduling, but we know we will finish out the current season and then be working on our future programming,” McClure says. “The design process is just beginning. We are excited to be working alongside the city of Rogers.”

APT will announce its 2023-24 season at the Season Leaks! Season 38 party Jan. 20.

— Becca Martin-Brown

Categories: Theater