Future theater outside web online pic

A thermometer sign indicates the progress of Beaver Dam Area Community Theatre's campaign to raise $2.4 million for a new downtown theater.

Members of the Beaver Dam Area Community Theater are saying that the time is now to begin work on Beaver Dam’s new $2.4 million downtown theater and they want to start by the end of 2017.

“It’s time to get it finished,” Beaver Dam Area Community Theater President and General Building Manager Scott Eberle said.

In 2014, BDACT purchased a former elementary school at 117 W. Maple Ave., Beaver Dam, to be reconstructed as a theater. Since the project was first detailed, cost for construction increased to $2.4 million, according to estimates. BDACT has raised $2.09 million.

Eberle says that the longer organizers wait, the more expensive it gets. Right now, they are in the final stage of designing the theater.

Due to the inflating costs over the years, some changes have been made. For instance, the third floor was originally going to be a studio theater. Eberle said that since school buildings have different structural standards than a theater, it became apparent that it would be too costly to adapt the space. The compromise is the second floor-rehearsal space, which will be multipurpose.

Campaign Co-Chair Annette Kamps said the second floor could be used as a community space, classrooms and for small-scale shows. Since the third floor will no longer be theater space, Kamps said it would serve as storage and meeting areas.

The ground floor will include 340 seats in the main auditorium, elevator, lobby, sound, lighting, orchestra pit, restrooms and concession area.

Eberle said the goal of the board is to have no debt once the project wraps up.

Campaign Co-Chair Jim Flynn said the group plans to continue fundraising through the construction. He added that he is confident all the pledges will come in by the grand opening. According to him, many people are on the edge of donating, but he said that some people want to see progress, which is a driving force to push this construction forward.

In June, Robert Keller, former Beaver Dam resident and owner of the Park Village Shopping Center, offered a $100,000 matching grant.

Eliminating economic barriers is one other way the theater is attacking fundraising. Eberle said that the theater’s $5 preview night has been a hit.

“I don’t want anyone to use the excuse that ‘I can’t afford it’” he said.

As for the current theater located at 219 N. Spring St., Eberle said that the theater group plans to sell it. They have agreed that they are asking $99,500 for the property, but any offer will be looked at seriously.

The theater group is aiming for a grand opening next summer.

Ben Rueter covers Beaver Dam, Horicon and Juneau city governments for the Beaver Dam Daily Citizen.