BY KIM FARRELL Staff writer

Supporters of the Capitol Theatre are staging a facelift for the 1928 showplace, and the cost is estimated at between $12 million and $17 million.

The first act of the multi-year project will be an $800,000 marquee makeover.

Officials plan to restore the interior of the Capitol to the way it was in 1939.

An overview of plans for the restoration of the Capitol Theater was presented at a Rome Chamber of Commerce business after hours event earlier this year. Dan Althouse, planning chair of the Capitol Theatre Restoration Committee, announced the restoration plans to be done in stages.

According to Althouse, the project will preserve the historic theater for use for years to come, historically restore the public access areas of the theater, upgrade the theater for use by regional and community organizations and enhance the capability to provide the region with world class entertainment. A restoration committee has been formed with a mission statement and goals. The committee has also consulted with other venues about campaign strategies.

Art Pierce, theater director, said, "Since the capital campaign has yet to be launched, and, in fact, is still in the planning stages, we don’t have a lot of details at this point.

"The timeline is contingent on how soon the money is raised ... It is possible that the plans for the marquee could be started as early as the end of this year. A major electrical upgrade — which doesn’t show — was completed earlier this year, with funds" from the city’s federal Community Development Block Grant money and from the Rome Community Foundation.

The Chamber of Commerce will contribute part of the proceeds from its 2009 Golf Classic towards the first phase of the project, the restoration of the Capitol marquee. According to Pierce, theater director, the cost of the marquee itself — installed — is estimated at about $600,000. The cost of the facade, including the marquee and the landscaping, will be around of $800,000.

Following the marquee project, the schedule of additional work includes a facilities upgrade next, followed by storefront upgrades and then improvements to the orchestra pit and the moveable organ console.

According to Pierce, restoring the theater to the way it was in 1939 was selected because "that’s basically what we have now, and have had for the past 70 years. When the building was renovated in the fall of 1939 it wasn’t gutted as would often be the case. Instead they used much of what was already here and adapted it to the new modernistic decor. It’s what our Restoration Architect, Craig Morrison of New York City, calls ‘an eclectic mix of 1928 and 1939 styles.’ It’s a rather unusual circumstance and it’s what gives the Capitol its character, and we don’t want to change that."

Pierce also explained that there are no plans to alter the size of the stage. "What we have now is perfectly adequate for the types of shows we do and intend to do in the future," he explained.

What will be done:

• The stage will be refinished.

• Stage lighting will be upgraded.

• The orchestra pit will be expanded.

• A lift installed.

• Plans also include a moveable organ console storage area under the stage.

• An expansion of the rear of the building, to accommodate new dressing rooms, storage and work areas, will be another stage of the restoration.

"This will not alter the configuration of the stage or the auditorium at all," Pierce said.

The long range project will include upgrading of the heating and air conditioning systems; replacing the roofing system; removing the original boiler system; restoring and expanding the projection booth, upgrading the sound system; upgrading and expanding rest room facilities; and refurbishing office space.

Restoration of the entrance and storefronts of the theater will include the concrete face removed from brick; the vertical sign and marquee reinstalled, the storefront windows and doors historically restored; the lobby historically refinished including a concession stand upgrade and new historically accurate carpeting and finishes. Improvements to the balcony will provide spacing adjustments to the seating and historically restored lighting and wall covering.

Those interested in learning more about the plans for the restoration of the Capitol Theatre, or who would like to get involved in the project, should contact the theater administrative offices at 337-6277 or by e-mail at romecapitol@aol.com