Rockford awaits Coronado’s completion

Rockford awaits Coronado’s completion

By Shellie Berg

By Shellie Berg

Staff Reporter

The Friends of the Coronado continue to put the final touches on the Rockford treasure that will be restored to its original grandeur and reopen in January.

“The rehearsal room is pretty close to being finished,” Friends of the Coronado Administrative Director Sarah Skorija said. “The backstage support spaces are pretty much complete. The flooring and the acoustical draperies are not installed yet, but they will be installed in the next couple of weeks.”

The restoration and covering of ornamental finishes, which is the repainting and the reglazing of areas such as the audience chamber. That will be achieved in late December. “We’re using all the original colors,” Skorija noted.

Skorija also pointed out that the two star dressing rooms, which are being converted from two apartments on the second floor, are almost near completion. Rigging and sound sites are also on their way to being effected.

“The freight and public elevators are complete but haven’t received state certification yet,” she said. “The vertical Coronado sign has been installed. The horizontal is right above the entry doors in the Coronado.”

Other current renovations include the light-dimming system, flooring and acoustical drapery. Further projects entail finishing the backstage support spaces for chorus, prop and quick-change rooms.

The next improvements are installing chandeliers in the lobby, foyer and auditorium; the tuning and adjusting of the orchestra’s acoustic and audio; the reinstallation of the Grande Barton Organ; putting in new and refurbished seats; placing carpeting, terrazzo flooring and tile; and repairing and repainting the Main Street “facade.” J.P. Cullen & Sons are the contractors for the project.

Skorija noted the renovations will be accomplished by Dec. 31. Afterward, checking and rechecking on the various items will occur in the theater.

On Jan. 19, the Coronado will hold a Sneak Preview Tour by Lottery, in which some people will catch the first glimpse of Coronado’s renovations. Individuals can send a postcard with their name, address and phone number to Friends of the Coronado, P.O. Box 604, Rockford, IL 61105. Skorija doesn’t yet know how many names will be chosen for the preview.

Friends president Mary Ann Smith will conduct the tour, with the local and national media in attendance. “We’re expecting some representatives from the League of Historic American theaters, the National Trust for Historic Preservation, as well as leading historic theater consultants,” Skorija said.

On Jan. 20, the Coronado will open its doors and present a Gala Dinner Dance, in which Broadway performer and Rockfordian Marin Mazzie will enthrall audiences by singing her favorite songs. Honorary co-chair Rick Nielsen of Cheap Trick fame also will be on hand and so will dozens and dozens of “friends.”

Up to the opening, Friends of the Coronado, the Rockford Area Arts Council and the city will have had put 18-months work into the $18.5 million project. Although $1.3 million was donated by the Illinois Department of Community and Cultural Affairs and $7 million was allocated by the city, the remaining $10.2 million came purely from individual and private donors.

Skorija stated the notion for the extensive renovation came about from the arts council and the city, which commissioned a feasibility study for both the Coronado and Midway theaters.

“It ended up the community would put support financially and their backing toward expanding and renovating the Coronado,” she remarked, adding that the Friends committee was formed in 1998 to oversee the project.

The Midway was recently bought out by private owners, so any thought of restoring that facility has been put on hold. “Who knows what could happen in the future,” she said. “The city certainly supports Midway. Maybe we can take a look at Midway. The city actually owns the Coronado.”

Skorija thinks that when the Coronado is finished, Midway could be next. Yet the examination of the economic and community results of Coronado must occur first.

The community should prepare for some fresh, new acts at the theater. “We’ll have a variety of shows,” Skorija said.

It will also show youth concerts, the Rockford Symphony Orchestra and comedy acts. “We’re not limited in bringing in acts to the Coronado,” she said. “We used to be limited because of the size of the stage. The stage has been enlarged by 40 percent. It’s been enlarged height-wise and width-wise. Any show that’s playing Broadway can come.”

She also noted the dressing rooms are more accommodating as well. The dressing rooms are being converted from the apartments on the second floor. Skorija noted the apartments were in “pretty bad shape.”

However, she said that the contractors, overall, haven’t experienced problems from the old building. The work has remained on schedule and within the budget. “We’re actually very lucky that we did not run into any major problem with the renovation,” she said. “You never know what you’re getting into when you’re dealing with a project like this.”

And after the restoration, the Coronado will continue bringing in an array of acts, about 150 yearly. Throughout the realm of time, famous performers, such as Phyllis Diller, Liberace and David Copperfield delighted Rockford audiences there.

Skorija noted that the city’s celebrated relic opened its doors in 1927 as a movie theater. In 1984, the last film shown there was “Mickey’s Christmas Carol.”

“In the past 30 years, the Coronado has hosted more stage shows and performing shows rather than movies,” she said. “Kerasotes did own the theater up until 1997. They donated the theater to the City of Rockford.”

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