May 31, 2015

Information on Proposed City of DeKalb Funding for Theatre


This is a long post, but there is a lot of information we want to provide to the public so that accurate information is available.

For fiscal year (FY) 2016 starting July 1 2015, the Egyptian Theatre has multiple funding opportunities in front of the DeKalb City Council for approval.  The Egyptian Theatre is asking supporters, patrons, and those that love the Theatre to help contact the City of DeKalb council members to show your support.  Letters and emails are fantastic but attending a City Council meeting and vocalizing your support is even better.

Below is all the important information you need to know.  If you have questions or need more details do not hesitate to contact the Egyptian Theatre Executive Director Alex Nerad at 815-758-1215 or  Thank you!!!

Monday, June 8, 2015 – DeKalb City Council Meeting 6:00 PM – City Hall
Public can make public statements of 3 minutes or less during the public hearing on the first reading of the FY 2016 budget.  Please remember to complete a speaker request form in advance of the meeting and provide it to the City Clerk so your request will be included in the cue.

Monday, June 22, 2015 – DeKalb City Council Meeting 6:00 PM – City Hall
Egyptian Theatre annual report and presentation given to council.
FY 2016 budget and Egyptian Theatre funding agreements voted on by council.  Comments can be shared during the public comments section of the agenda.  Please remember to complete a speaker request form in advance of the meeting and provide it to the City Clerk so your request will be included in the cue.

Funding for Egyptian Theatre up for vote by City of DeKalb City Council

1) $25,000 in operating support for FY 2016.  This would be the first time in over a decade that the Theatre had received operating support which is greatly needed.  The Egyptian Theatre is one of very few theatre’s in Northern Illinois that do not receive municipal support for operations.  Just like the DeKalb County Convention and Visitors Bureau and the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce, the Egyptian Theatre is a significant traffic and economic generator for the community.  The DeKalb County CVB and DeKalb Chamber of Commerce organizations receive $50,000 and $45,000 respectively in annual operating support from the City of DeKalb.

2) $100,000 in capital project support from downtown TIF district for FY 2016.  The theatre has historically received this funding each year for building projects.  These funds can only be used for capital projects within the TIF district and cannot be used by the City (or Egyptian Theatre) for operating expenses.  The Egyptian Theatre has utilized these funds to complete building projects that otherwise would not have been completed due to lack of funds within our annual operating budget.  View a list of past projects: Click Here.

3) $230,000 in project funding from downtown TIF district for FY 2016.  $180,000 of these funds would be used to fund the necessary design and engineering updates for the installation of air conditioning in the Theatre.  $50,000 of these funds would be used for a feasibility study to explore the full operating potential of the Theatre when open year round and the best ownership/management model.  Funding for the installation of air conditioning would be considered and voted on by the city council next year following the completion of the feasibility study and engineering work.

Facts and Timeline of  Air Conditioning Discussion

May 2011 – The Downtown DeKalb revitalization project was completed ahead of schedule and under budget.  With the project coming in under budget there were funds remaining in the construction bonds that needed to be used.  ReNew DeKalb and the City of DeKalb approached the Egyptian Theatre about utilizing some of the remaining funds to help with some transformational projects at the Theatre.

The Egyptian Theatre and the City have long identified air conditioning as a significant need for the Theatre, both because it would help maintain the Theatre’s interior improvements and protect them from high temperatures and humidity, and because it would help transform the Theatre into a year-round attraction that would be able to draw business to the City’s downtown consistently, regardless of weather conditions.  In 2011, the Egyptian Theatre conducted some very preliminary review into what the costs of installing air conditioning systems for the building would be.  A local contractor provided a rough estimate of costs, indicating that it would cost approximately $500,000 for installation of a system.

The proposed grant from the City of DeKalb was in the amount of $890,000.  At the time the Egyptian Theatre had been underway with a fundraising campaign to replace the historic seats from 1929.  Over $200,000 had been raised by the Egyptian Theatre at that point for the $430,000 project.  Following the Egyptian Theatre Board of Directors strategic plan and capital project priority list the funds from the City of DeKalb were allocated to complete the seating project ($230,000), replacement of the sound system from 1983 ($160,000) and $500,000 to go towards the installation of air conditioning.

Based upon the significance of the need, both the City and the Egyptian supported the installation of air conditioning.  Both parties recognized that further engineering and cost verification was required before the project could proceed forward.  Given the unique nature of the historic structure it is important to preserve as much of the natural beauty of the Theatre as possible.

Summer 2011 – Egyptian Theatre completes seating project and sound system replacement project.

Fall 2011 – Planning begins with an architect to search for a qualified MEP (mechanical/electrical/plumbing) engineering firm to design and bid the air conditioning project.

February 2012 – The Egyptian Theatre issues RFQ (request for qualifications) from MEP engineering firms for the air conditioning project.  A committee of Egyptian Theatre board members, staff, and community members evaluated all the proposals submitted and selected a firm deemed to be the most qualified.  Design and engineering for the project began and took months to complete before having a package to put out to bid.  Every possible system and installation method was explored as options.  Experts within the community and from NIU were utilized to help evaluate the designs.  The Board of Directors gave a few directives to the engineers designing the project.  The project had to be affordable to install; the design had to be for a system that was affordable to operate and maintain; and the design had to protect the historical integrity of the building making it appear that the work had always been in place since 1929.  Initial estimates by the engineers after designing the project put the project cost at $1.5 million.

August 2012 – The air conditioning project was publicly bid and 3 contractors submitted bids.  The 3 bids received were $2,086,000; $2,092,354; and $2,256,000.  These bids came in significantly higher than what the engineers on the project had estimated prior to putting the project out to bid.  With the 3 bids being fairly close to each other, the Egyptian Theatre Board of Directors felt confident that these were accurate bids.  However, the Theatre Board asked for the project to be re-bid with phases as an option to try and get the project cost down.

October 2012 – The project was rebid and the same 3 contractors submitted revised bids.  The revised bids were to only air condition the auditorium which was not suggested by the engineers as it would not address the public lobby areas or stage.  But this was an attempt to complete something with the funds that had been made available and get to a situation where the theatre could potentially be open through the summer for events.  The 3 revised bids came in at $1,497,650; $1,498,500; and $1,596,340.  With these costs still more than $1 million over what was granted by the City of DeKalb the Egyptian Theatre Board of Directors had no choice but to not move forward with air conditioning at this time.

December 2012 – After exploring all options the Egyptian Theatre Board of Directors submitted a letter to the City of DeKalb officially requesting that the funds granted to the Egyptian Theatre for air conditioning be used for another priority project which was to install a sprinkler system throughout the Theatre providing 100% coverage.

March 2013 – The DeKalb City Council approved the request to reallocate the granted funds to the installation of a sprinkler system throughout the Theatre.  This project was completed during the summer of 2013.

The Egyptian Theatre Board of Directors has continued searching and applying for grants for the air conditioning project.  Private foundations, state and federal grants have all been explored but no successful funding had been obtained.

Spring 2015 – With roughly 5 years remaining for the Central Business TIF District the City of DeKalb started working on a phase out plan for the remaining funds in the TIF district.  Aware of the importance and impact that air conditioning the Egyptian Theatre would have, the Theatre and the City have worked to develop a plan for funding this much-needed improvement..  The Egyptian Theatre reached out to the design team from 2012 and asked for some updated project numbers factoring in inflation.  There have been some code changes and technology advances since the design of 2012.  Conservatively the project is being estimated between $2.5 to $3 million.  The design and engineering will have to be updated to meet current code and take advantage of technological advances.

June 2015 – The DeKalb City Council will vote on whether to approve funding for the updated design and engineering for the air conditioning project.  The Egyptian Theatre Board of Directors is adamant about having actual numbers in front of us for all to be able to make informed decisions on moving forward.  If this initial funding is approved by Council the Theatre will move forward with the updated design and engineering for this project.  The project will be publicly bid and those new updated bids will be the basis of discussions with City Council in early 2016 to approve funding for the execution of the air conditioning project.  If the project funding is approved in 2016 then construction will begin and the goal will be to be completed by the summer of 2017.

The Egyptian Theatre Board of Directors is focused on providing accurate information to the public and to the City of DeKalb.  It remains our goal to be open and transparent with everything we do utilizing public funds.  We are extremely appreciative of the continued support from the City of DeKalb and are happy that they recognize the importance the Egyptian Theatre plays in the cultural and economic landscape of not only the Downtown but the entire community.

Rick Springfield

What you need to know…

-The Egyptian Theatre is owned and operated by Preservation of Egyptian Theatre, Inc. a 501(c)(3) non-profit charitable organization that was formed in 1978.

-Mission Statement: To share and protect the historical integrity of the theatre as a regional arts center for entertainment and community involvement.

-Vision Statement: The historic Egyptian Theatre is recognized as a center for the arts and entertainment in the region, enriching the community culturally and economically.  The Theatre is a beloved gathering place and source of pride, providing programming and excitement now and for future generations.

-The Egyptian Theatre is currently operated by 2 full time employees and 1 part time employee.  This is significantly lower than other theatres in the region and comparable venues around the country.

-The Egyptian Theatre recently has averaged
>Over 130 events a season
>Over 25 different community organizations that utilize the Theatre in a season
>Over 30,000 people that visit the Theatre in a season
>Patrons from 23 different states and 36 counties in Illinois.
>Roughly $1.5-2 million in economic impact for the community on an annual basis*

*Where do we get this number?  The has done extensive studies nationwide that are used by arts organizations and elected representatives.  Their most recent study from 2010 shows that local attendees spend on average $17.42 and nonlocal attendees spend on average $39.96.  We know from our ticket sales that on average 70% of our audiences are from outside the DeKalb/Sycamore area.  When we multiple that against our annual attendance, include our annual expenses that are primarily spent locally and include the capital projects we complete on an annual basis with local contractors; our annual economic impact averages $1.5-2 million dollars currently.  More information on the Egyptian Theatre annual budget and funding sources: click here.

-The Egyptian Theatre is one of six left in the United States and the only one East of the Rocky Mountains.  The Theatre is listed on the National Registry of Historic Places and was named 1 of 150 Great Places in Illinois by the American Institute of Architects.  The Theatre is the largest auditorium in DeKalb County and home to the largest movie screen in DeKalb County.

-The Egyptian Theatre has never had air conditioning since 1929.  Because of this the Theatre is closed during the summer months.  Concerts, community events, weddings, and other events decide not to use the Theatre in the summer after learning there is no air conditioning.  This makes it extremely challenging to go 2-3 months with no revenue but have continued operating expenses.  As an organization we MUST generate enough revenue in 9 months to get us through the 3 dark months with no events.

-The Egyptian Theatre being closed for 2-3 months during the summer and less busy during the neighboring months due to unpredictable weather makes a significant impact on the downtown businesses and area hotels.  Not only are most of the NIU students gone during the summer months but a major traffic generator (the Theatre) downtown is closed.

-The lack of air conditioning makes maintenance and upkeep costs higher than normal.  The heat and humidity is extremely rough on the ornamental plasterwork and decorative painting.  It also impacts the stage curtains, seat fabric, and sensitive electronics in the building.  A Wurlitzer Theatre Organ valued at $600,000 was donated to the Theatre back in 2008 but has yet to be installed because the lack of AC would be detrimental to the organ.  That project has remained on hold until there is a set timeline for installation of air conditioning.  The Egyptian Theatre originally opened with a Wurlitzer Theatre Organ but the console was sold off in the 1940’s and the remaining parts were sold off in the 1980’s due to a lack of funding to restore the organ at that time.

-Adding Air Conditioning to the historic Egyptian Theatre will:
>Make the theatre available year round
>Substantially increase the economic impact on the community
>Increase the stability of the non-profit operating the Theatre
>Protect the physical historic Theatre and investment community has made toward preserving the Theatre
>Make it possible to install the Wurlitzer Theatre Organ donated to the Theatre
>Increase the amount of events and arts programming for the community

-Why is the air conditioning project so expensive?
The historic Egyptian Theatre  which opened in 1929 has never had air conditioning nor was it designed for such a system.  Beside the equipment needed to adequately air condition the nearly 30,000 square foot building there is infrastructure upgrades required.  The power feed and gas feed to the building will need to be upgraded.  New duct work will need to be carefully run throughout the building.  There is some asbestos abatement in the basement and attic spaces that will need to take place.  The building was not designed to structurally handle the weight of mechanical units so there will need to be plans made to accommodate this.  Lastly, the fact that the Theatre is a performance venue requires the system to be carefully designed so that when the system is operating it is not disruptive to the performance experience in the Theatre.


We appreciate and need your support!

While the Egyptian Theatre is owned and operated by a non-profit organization it is done so for the benefit of the greater DeKalb community.  The Egyptian Theatre is YOUR Egyptian Theatre.  If you agree that the City of DeKalb should continue to support the historic Egyptian Theatre both for the cultural and economic impacts it has on our community then please contact the elected officials ASAP and let them know your views.  Only through feedback from the community can our elected officials make decisions that are reflective of the community.

City of DeKalb Elected Officials Contact Information
(Information from City of DeKalb website)

Mayor John Rey –

1st Ward Alderman David Jacobson –

2nd Ward Alderman Bill Finucane –

3rd Ward Alderman Michael Marquardt –

4th Ward Alderman Bob Snow –

5th Ward Alderman Kate Noreiko –

6th Ward Alderman Dave Baker –

7th Ward Alderman Monica O’Leary –

Mailing Address:

DeKalb City Council
DeKalb Municipal Building
200 S. 4th Street
DeKalb, IL 60115