Perhaps you’ve seen the waterproof roof tarp wrapping the theater roof. From a bird’s-eye view, it appears as though the roof is covered in snow. But what matters down here on the ground is that this special tarp covering the roof has stopped water leaking into the theater for the first time in about a decade.
But the theater itself remains dark. We know you haven’t heard a lot from us since we won the title and deed to the theater building in January 2016, after almost three years of negotiations with the previous owner’s lenders, including federal, state and local government entities.
Officially owning the building finally gave us access to every nook and cranny of the building for the first time. It completely revealed the sad state of affairs into which our once proud theater had fallen. Undaunted, and with a new commitment, we rolled up our sleeves and immediately got to work.
So here’s the inside story on what we’ve been doing quietly behind the scenes, and an inside look into the theater itself:
- Hazardous materials testing: As soon as we took ownership of the theater, we hired professionals to test and assess the condition of the building and determine what needs to be done and in what order. We knew we needed greater certainty and more accurate estimates of the work before we came to the community to raise funds. Our first priority was to complete testing for mold, asbestos and other potentially hazardous substances. We wanted to ensure that potentially harmful substances were removed before bringing in community volunteers to work alongside us going forward.
- Property Taxes: We negotiated with county officials, and in April 2016 we made the first payment on the years of delinquent property taxes owed by the former owner. In March 2017, we paid the second installment. As a result of our actions, the theater has finally been removed from the county’s list of properties in default.
- Site Cleanup: A group of 30 volunteers gathered in August of 2016 to clean up the exterior and to remove decades of debris and junk from the upstairs office building.
- General Contractor Hired: In February, we hired an experienced Lompoc general contractor to guide us through the process of restoring the theater as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible.
- Marquee Stabilized: We stabilized the marquee, which had been declared unsafe in 2013. We repaired the sign, hired an engineering firm to sign off on the repair, and won Caltrans’ authorization to remove the warning signs that had blocked the sidewalk in front of the theater for three years.
- Historical Status Preserved: We contacted lawyers and historical preservationists to confirm our landmark eligibility. We began the process of identifying the tax credits that will eventually amount to $2 million, about one-third of our renovation costs. We hired a firm to forensically go through the auditorium, and preserved all items (including paint and plaster samples) that were identified as historically important. Our efforts will eventually lead to the declaration of the Lompoc Theatre as a landmark on the National Registry of Historic Places.
Late last year, the Theatre Project received its largest donation to date from actors Julia Louis-Dreyfus and Brad Hall. With their major donation, we are completing work identified by the experts we hired, including the following:
- Demolition Underway: Permits were pulled and fees paid to the City of Lompoc to begin the long process of the physical renovation of the theater, beginning with the complete hazardous material abatement and gutting of the lobby and auditorium.
- Pigeons Evicted: The longtime residents of the theater (a large flock of pigeons) were humanely evicted from their lodgings, generously leaving behind a 1- to 5-inch toxic layer of excrement. All re-entry points in the roof were closed, preventing their return.
- Pigeon Excrement Abatement: Professionals certified in hazardous waste removal will completely remove the toxic material.
- Asbestos Abatement: All asbestos in the main theater and lobby was professionally removed and disposed. The theater was then retested and certified asbestos free.
- Roof wrapped: In our continuing commitment to “go local” as much as possible, Lompoc’s McIntosh roofing company was contracted to cover the theater’s leaking roof with a waterproof tarp to prevent any further damage from weather.
- Seat Removal: All seats will be removed, row end caps preserved, and two end seats sent to the Irwin seating company, an internationally renowned manufacturer of theatrical seating, to create new seats that historically match the damaged and unusable current seats that date back to renovation of the theater in the 1950s.
- Stage and Fly System: All curtains, rigging, non-historical lighting instruments and debris will be removed and disposed.
- Ceiling Removal: Rain damage has made the current ceiling untenable. All plaster and lathe still in place will be completely removed, making the eventual structural rehabilitation of the steel roof supports faster and easier.
- Mold Abatement: All walls will be blasted clean, all surfaces treated, and all mold removed.
By the time we celebrate the Theater’s 90th birthday on May 27, the remediation work should be finished and the city will be able to remove its “red tag” designation, enabling the community and our volunteers to at last enter the theater without concern about toxic or unhealthy substances. Thanks to your donations so far, the Lompoc Theater will begin its 91st year with a clean slate.
It is time to “Raise the Roof”!
We are actively working toward raising the $600,000 needed to completely repair and redo the roof, and to permanently attach the steel support beams to the concrete walls to prevent weather from ever damaging the theater again.
- $1.4 million will completely renovate the auditorium including seats, sound, lights, projectors and rigging.
- $1 million will transform the office building and lobby.
- $2.25 million will build the new event/rehearsal space, loading docks, dressing and green rooms.
- $750K will restore the land office, redo the parking lot, and create a destination outdoor lobby patio.
Our citizens want this venue to see movies, music, dance and theater and many other events that educate, entertain and enhance our community.
When our doors open, Lompoc Valley residents will be able to experience performances, lectures and readings from guest speakers, authors and humorists who will enlighten, educate and entertain us.
Our residents need a cultural and event center that welcomes their meetings, award presentations, debates, weddings, birthdays and memorials.
Our local arts groups and high school students need a permanent state-of-the-art home to rehearse and perform.
Our children need arts education that is no longer offered in our schools.
Our economy needs the vital new businesses that will be generated by the renovation of the Lompoc Theater.
The Lompoc Theatre provides all these opportunities and will give Lompoc back its heart and soul.
Getting to opening day will not be easy. It never is.
And legal entanglements, complicated debt structures, entrenched agencies, previous failed attempts, and broken promises have given us even higher hurdles to overcome.
But dollar-by-dollar, step-by-step, hurdle-by-hurdle, we are turning our community’s longstanding dream into reality.
What the theatre needs now, more than ever, is you.
Donate any amount you can at any time by going here. Click the “Donate” button to make your contribution. Sign up for our email list while you’re at it. Have something in mind? Want to meet with us? Individual showcases on a range of donor opportunities are available, as well as are presentations to organizations. Or, fill out a volunteer form to tell us how you’d like to contribute to this community effort. Our immediate goal is to raise $1 million to tackle the work mentioned above.
Our long-term goal is to raise about $4 million in donations and grants and $2 million in tax credits to revive the glory of this once magnificent theater and once again provide a vibrant performing arts center for the Lompoc Valley.
Lompoc Theatre Project Board of Directors
Photos courtesy of Jeremy Ball