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O'Dekirk says new funding source for Rialto Square Theatre is almost ready

JOLIET – The city is working on a source of regular funding for the Rialto Square Theatre that could be announced next week.

Mayor Bob O’Dekirk told Rialto representatives at the Joliet City Council meeting on Tuesday that he may be able to outline a funding mechanism at an event being held at the theater May 24.

“We have actively been working on one, and I hope at the forum next week I’ll be able to make an announcement,” O’Dekirk said.

The mayor would not offer more information about what the funding source may be. But when asked after the meeting, he did say it would not involve a new tax.

Many of the state’s civic center authorities that oversee theaters receive a tax dedicated to their operations. The Will County Metropolitan Exposition and Auditorium Authority, which oversees the Rialto, at one time received a portion of the city’s hotel/motel tax.

While the mayor’s announcement may be news to the public, Rialto officials are aware of the prospects of a new source of funding

“I know he’s been working on it for months,” Rialto Board Chairman Robert Filotto said.

The event on May 24 is a 90th Anniversary Year in Review Celebration, which will be 5 to 6:30 p.m. at the Rialto. The Rialto board meets at 4 p.m. before the event.

City funding for the theater has been a sore point in recent years.

Rialto officials and O’Dekirk, too, have said there should be a regular source of funding for the theater instead of the annual process that occurs now in which the council decides each year whether to contribute city money and how much.

In the showdown over funding this year, the entire Rialto board resigned before the city provided a $500,000 contribution.

A new board was appointed, and some of the members were at the Tuesday meeting for a progress report delivered by new Executive Director Valerie Devine.

Devine gave an upbeat report.

She said the Rialto will meet the 30-show mark by the end of June that the city required before it would provide a second installment on the annual $500,000 funding.

“We have booked or will perform 35 shows by the end of June,” Devine said, adding that the theater has offers out on a dozen other possible shows.

Devine said 7,500 people have attended shows at the Rialto so far this year, adding that the number does not include people who have come to the theater for dance recitals, and other events. An additional 4,500 people are expected for upcoming shows, Devine said.

With VenuWorks, the company that now manages the theater, the Rialto is making changes in its concessions menu and has put in place a system that now allows for credit card purchases at the bar.

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