By Andrea Cordle
The Little Theatre Off Broadway has been a staple in the Grove City community for many years and city leaders want to keep it that way.
At the July 20 meeting, Grove City Council unanimously approved a measure that would award the theater group $20,000 in funds under the Town Center Commercial Revitalization Grant Program.
The program typically holds a maximum grant amount of $10,000. The theater was deemed an exceptional circumstance. The grant amount was increased and a matching funds provision was waived.
According to Lisa Cravens-Brown, the vice president of the Little Theatre Off Broadway board, the theater is in crisis.
She said the building can get up to four feet of water in the basement during heavy rains.
“It is a grave danger,” said Cravens-Brown.
The theater group would like to use the grant to not only clean up the flooded basement, but to hire a professional and fix the drainage issues to prevent future water damage.
The building itself is 100 years old. It was originally opened in 1916 as the Kingdom Theater. It has been home to the Little Theatre Off Broadway since the late 1960s.
“We have a history of pulling ourselves up by our bootstraps,” said Cravens-Brown.
However, this time the group needs help.
Cravens-Brown said each production costs the theater about $2,500 and they do not have shows in the summer due to the water problem.
According to city documents, a business in the Town Center could receive special consideration for the grant amount if it meets certain criteria. It states that the investment must enhance the vitality and appearance of the Town Center, result in job creation or additional economic investment. It also states that the proposed improvement must result in the update of building and facilities to meet current code requirements to better serve and protect the health, life and safety of occupants.
Cravens-Brown said the theater draws in people and money for the Town Center. She said approximately 60 percent of its audience comes from outside Grove City. Many of the actors, directors and production staff also reside outside of the city.
“These people come into the city and spend money,” said Cravens-Brown.
Councilman Jeff Davis said, “This is not just city money. It is a community partnership. The theater is a valued entity in Grove City and these funds give them structure.”
Other Grove City groups have also contributed funds to the Little Theatre.
Andy Furr, from Town Center Inc., said the board offered to grant the theater $3,000.
“The Little Theatre is one of the gems in the Town Center,” said Furr.
Grove City Division of Police Chief Steve Robinette, who spoke on behalf of the Grove City Rotary Club, said the group applied for a $4,000 grant to help support the project.
“We need to help this group,” he said.
Grove City Mayor Richard “Ike” Stage suggested using the city’s hotel tax for additional arts funding, which could include the theater. The city uses funds from that tax for its Arts in the Alley event.
“We haven’t paid as much attention to it (the Little Theatre) as we should have,” said Stage.
The Little Theatre Off Broadway is an Ohio non-profit corporation. It is a member of the Ohio Community Theatre Association. Members perform six shows per season, including musicals, comedies and dramas.
For more information on the theater or its performances, visit www.ltob.org.