The front marquee is in place, the glass windows have been replaced and the Wayne Theatre is one step closer to opening. Next comes the hard part. Construction crews are excavating as they move forward on the building’s interior, with the idea of hitting the December 2014 deadline.
“We have to be able to open by December 2014,” said Clair Myers, executive director of the Waynesboro Theatre Alliance. “Part of the funding for this project comes from tax credits and in order to use those tax credits for [the coming year], we have to be complete, able for people to walk in, by December of next year.”
The Wayne has had a long history in the city. Built in 1926, it was billed as a vaudeville and silent movie theatre, but Myers said he couldn’t find any evidence of vaudeville acts performing there. The original structure was smaller than what stands currently. Walls were extended out and the entire building was remodeled in 1949. Documents from that era say the building could hold as many as 600 people, Myers said, although he didn’t see how that was possible. When finished, the new Wayne Theatre will seat around 375 people both in the lower audience bowl and the balcony.
Mathers Construction is handling work on the project, which has a price tag of between $10 to $11 million. The first phase cost around $850,000. As the group waited for paperwork on the tax credits, they took $850,000 from their fundraising to start construction in September, in order to meet their deadline.
“We have the funding, but we won’t close on it until November,” Myers said. “There’s just some paperwork they need to finish. If we had waited for that to start construction, we wouldn’t have made the deadline.”
The Wayne Theatre has been in poor shape for years. In 2000, Waynesboro City Council created the WTA to oversee its revitalization. After several starts and stops, the current campaign started in 2007 and has continued nonstop.
The goal, for Myers and his group, is to open up the Wayne free of debt next year. To do that, more fundraising will be needed in the months ahead. In the meantime, excavation continues on the area that used to serve as the orchestra pit. Over the next few months, the crew will also work inside, extending the lounge area and restoring some of the original 1920s look. To do this, the parking lot between the Alliance building, 533 West Main Street, and the Wayne Theatre will be closed to the public, as of next Monday, Oct. 28.
“They’ve done everything except the big stuff,” Myers said. “It’s good to see things coming together.”