Archive for Thursday, September 29, 2011

Theatre Lawrence closes successful fundraising campaign for new building

September 29, 2011


It was fitting that there was drama.

Leaders with Theatre Lawrence announced on Thursday that a flurry of last-minute donations pushed its fundraising effort past their $6.2 million goal, ensuring the organization would not lose a pair of key grants that came with a Sept. 30 deadline.

“It has been like Christmas every day,” Mary Doveton, executive director of Theatre Lawrence, said. “The last couple of weeks have literally produced hundreds of thousands of dollars. It has been so gratifying to see people respond.”

Amidst a celebration of streamers and champagne, members of the group — formerly known as the Lawrence Community Theater — announced they had raised $6,486,000. That will be enough to follow through on plans to build a 300-seat theater in the Bauer Farm development near Sixth Street and Wakarusa Drive. Doveton estimated construction will begin this winter with completion in 12 to 15 months.

The new theater will replace the group’s existing home, a former church building at 15th and New Hampshire streets. The 300-seat theater will be nearly double the size of the current facility, and also will feature many more off-street parking spaces and more room for children’s programming.

“We think this new theater really will help cement Lawrence’s reputation as a unique community and one that really supports the arts,” said Lawrence architect Mike Treanor, who along with Lawrence businessman Doug Compton and other partners donated the $725,000 piece of land for the project.

The organization also highlighted several other donors. They included:

• Tensie Oldfather, a longtime Lawrence philanthropist who donated $1 million prior to her death in 2007.

• Mabel Woodyard, a Phoenix businesswoman and the sister of the late George Woodyard, a longtime board member of the community theater and a former Kansas University dean of international studies. Mabel Woodyard’s estate made a $1 million donation to the project in 2008.

• Bobby and Eleanor Patton, a Lawrence couple who both were involved professionally in theater in film. Bobby Patton also is former chair of communication and theater at KU and former president of Central Missouri State University. The couple made a $340,000 pledge to the project.

• The Beach Foundation, a regional philanthropic organization founded by Ross and Marianna Beach, who were active in Lawrence as owners of Douglas County Bank. The foundation donated $300,000.

The Lawrence City Commission and the Douglas County Commission also each pledged $100,000 to the project over the next five years. Theater leaders in early September asked city commissioners for assistance, saying the campaign had just under $500,000 to raise by the end of the month.

Thursday’s numbers showed the theater ultimately raised enough money to meet the fundraising goal without the $200,000 in public money. But just barely, and Doveton said she thinks the public money played a critical role in the decision of several last-minute donors.

“The city and county’s support was great because it got us on people’s radar, and it was an important vote of confidence,” Doveton said. “Right up until the end, people weren’t convinced we were going to make it.”


NotASquishHead 6 years, 8 months ago

So, since the group is $286,000 over their goal, how about they give the $200,000 back to the City and the County.... they will still be $86,000 over their goal. Sounds like the right thing to do to me.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 6 years, 8 months ago

"Thursday’s numbers showed the theater ultimately raised enough money to meet the fundraising goal without the $200,000 in public money."

Sounds like they might do just that, but it wasn't stated explicitly so.

At any rate, I agree that if they don't need it, they should decline the city and county contributions.

jlzack 6 years, 8 months ago

I don't see the need either. Lawrence has the Lied Center & Liberty Hall, and if this is only seating 300 people, it looks like a BIG waste of money, AGAIN...

jedifunk 6 years, 8 months ago

The community theater has been around since 1977. It obviously has proven staying power, and pre-dates the Lied Center by almost two decades.

Cant_have_it_both_ways 6 years, 8 months ago

Next, they will submit their application for financial assistance for the now needed full time staff. I'll bet there are 3 or 4 other things they have in mind that since they have their building they will, or think they need.

hoshi 6 years, 8 months ago

"Great minds discuss ideas. Average minds discuss events. Small minds discuss people." - -- Eleanor Roosevelt Get a life people.

blindrabbit 6 years, 8 months ago

Not a avid theatre goer myself; but it amazes me the number of naysayers who post negative comments on anything that makes Lawrence unique. Kansas has 105 counties; but only one "Douglas" and only one "Lawrence"! My suggestion for those that feel disenfranchised by the lifestyle and culture here, try the following counties, they'll get you far away from Lawrence but allow you to keep your parochial ideals: Morton, Cheyenne, Cherokee, Doniphan or any of the other 100! Melancholy in the land of mediocrity.

WilburM 6 years, 8 months ago

Great comment. Big aspirations, matched by major financial commitments. This shows the strength of the city that so many are eager to disrespect. Terrific day for the theater, and a great day for the city.

Bob Forer 6 years, 8 months ago

In hindsight, I guess he situation was not as desperate as it appeared when they made their pitch to the city. At least you gotta give them props for continuing their fund raising efforts even after reaching their goal. Will be interesting to see whether they say to the city, "thanks, but no thanks, we made it on our own."

Bob_Keeshan 6 years, 8 months ago

Will be more interesting to see whether posters on eat crow when that happens.

kansasredlegs 6 years, 8 months ago

Even if the group doesn't explicity say that it intends to return the taxpayer handout it received, our City & County Commissioners should make it absolutely clear to this group that since it met its goal by using government money as leverage, the Theatre did not lose its grants, then the taxpayers' money to secure the grants will not be appropriated in future budgets as the purpose for the taxpayer assistance worked and now is unnecessary.

Makes complete dollars and cents to me, but I can't wait to read about the Core-less-fuzzy-math-utilities-money-shift-accounting-procedures Dave comes out with so that the group can keep its handout. Also can't wait for the nonsense that will spew from Thelman and Gaughan for the reasons they will say to let the group keep the money.

Scott Morgan 6 years, 8 months ago

The city and county’s support was great because it got us on people’s radar, and it was an important vote of confidence,” Doveton said. “Right up until the end, people weren’t convinced we were going to make it.”.......................................

So with great pleasure we are setting an example of only taking what's needed, thank you city and county taxpayers please accept the return of the measly 200K


No, we are not going to answer why we requested the small sum, nor are we going to explain why when programs like Meals On Wheels are so underfunded and we got the bucks, nor are we feeling guilty a malnourished East Side 16 year old has to find a ride to high school because they have no money for the pay as you go school bus, nor why it was so so easy to skin a couple of hundred g's in times like these.

No, just stating, welcome to Lawrence politics should say it all.

fanofKU 6 years, 8 months ago

I think people have missed the boat all the way around here. Theatre Lawrence has been a good 8-10 years raising this money, which seems to be a typical time frame for fundraising in Lawrence. I have lived in Lawrence 20 years and have never attended a performance at the Theatre because of it's current location. I don't know that I will ever attend a performance but at least it will be in a location that I would feel safe in.

Raising their goal by the end of September brings $500,000 of Mabee Foundation money into the Lawrence community, which is a good thing for Lawrence.

Flap Doodle 6 years, 8 months ago

15th and New Hampshire street is unsafe?

kernal 6 years, 8 months ago

Snap, the only reason I can think of is perhaps fanofKU has physical limitations that make the current theatre's building difficult to navigate.

No neighborhood is completely safe 24/7, even in gated communities.

bearded_gnome 6 years, 8 months ago

location. I don't know that I will ever attend a performance but at least it will be in a location that I would feel safe in.


15th and NH has been wheelchair accessible just fine, ramp on the north side facing the Junior High School.

congrats to theatre lawrence! caliber of performance is amazing. welcoming and friendly people always!

indeed, this is part of what makes Lawrence a special place for all generations. Mary Doveton is a visionary leader.

newmedia 6 years, 8 months ago

The arts are alive without state funding! Say it's not so!! Now do the right thing and return/decline the city and counties (our) money.

Jeff Blair 6 years, 8 months ago

If anyone was paying attention during all of the time they were requesting money from the city and county, none of those funds applied to the matching grants they were trying to meet. It was expressly stated a number of times. The city money anyway will be coming from guest taxes on hotel rooms. If you're not even going to the theater, then I'd say you're probably not staying at a local hotel either. None of those bucks are coming out of your pocket. I believe the intent is to be able to use some of that funding to be able to furnish the new place. Let's see, what shall we all whine about tomorrow?

Scott Morgan 6 years, 8 months ago

bookworm, money is money, and we are in short supply of it.

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