COLUMBUS, Ga. (WRBL)— When you hear Springer Opera House, you may think lights, camera, action. Behind the scenes, the 152-year-old building requires constant maintenance to allow the show to go on.
“This building requires constant upkeep. You know, it’s a precious historic landmark, wood and plaster walls that need to be repaired. Wooden stairs, original wallpapers, and things like that that cost a lot of money to repair,” Director of Development Tate LeClair told WRBL.
Apart of that upkeep, a 30-year-old HVAC unit and roof on the Dorothy W. McClure Springer Theatre Academy. Each year the studios housed in the education building see 11,000 students within their Academy programs alone. However, with constant leaks from rain impacting floors and an outdated HVAC system, that number has decreased.
“We’ve had one classroom that’s been completely out of commission, as you saw when we were walking in, because we just don’t have the capacity to do that,” LeClair said. “And we can’t put children in a classroom where it’s raining and there’s leaking happening. So, we’ve had to scale back a lot of our programs, especially over the summer.”
To address the need, the Springer applied and was awarded two grants. The first awarded in early October, $50,000 from the Fox Theatre Institute (FTI).
Leigh Burns, director of the Fox Theatre Institute shared in a news release, “Now in our 15th year, FTI has had a tremendous opportunity to increase not only the preservation of historic theatres, but to see positive results for the ongoing economic and cultural impact created in their surrounding downtowns. We have many exciting plans for the next 15 years and look forward to continuing investing, but also expanding, the footprint of programs here at the Fox.”
The second awarded just this week, $75,000 from the Georgia Council for the Arts.
“This is a really special grant because we don’t get a lot of grants that are that are capital investments like this is a capital investment grant. This is property, this is supporting programs,” LeClair said. “But a lot of grants out there are for the programs specifically, they don’t support historic preservation. They don’t support construction or building upgrades or repairs and maintenance.”
The Springer needs about $25,000 more to complete the project. Construction is expected to start in February of 2024, and be completed in time for their Summer Academy programs.
Anyone interested in supporting the Springer can find out more, here.