WHEELING – The Executive Director of the Wheeling Convention and Visitors Bureau, Frank O’Brien, knows the Senses. Shelley Moore Capito and Joe Manchin consider the Capitol Theater in Wheeling to be an important part of the area. Now he and the theater are hoping that will lead to a six-figure push to make integral improvements to the building.
The two West Virginia senators – Republican Capito and Democrat Manchin – were on their list for “community project” funding of $ 700,000 for improvements to the Capitol Theater. Formerly known as assignments, community project funding allows members of Congress to apply for direct funding for projects that benefit the communities they represent.
If the Capitol Theater receives that $ 700,000, O’Brien said the lion’s share of that money would go to replacing the theater’s fly system – the weights, counterweights and pulleys that control the various sets used.
“(The current system) is original for the building”, O’Brien said.
“This is the technology of 1928. It is in urgent need of replacement, mainly for the quality of the shows we present. Ultimately, it could also be a security issue.
“We will try to get the best equipment possible, so it will be another 80 year term”, he added.
O’Brien said that the age of the current fly system has limited the Capitol Theater in the shows it can host and also in some of the sets that can be used in the shows it brings. Modern sets are heavier than they were in the past, he says.
Some touring shows cannot use the Capitol Theater because the fly system cannot support the weight of any of their sets. Some shows cannot use the full set catalog they would use in other venues for the same reason.
Part of the money will also go to renovating the foundations of the theater and the exterior of the building.
“It’s an icon” O’Brien said. “If we can keep it running and contribute to the economy, I really see it as a driver.”
O’Brien said that if 50,000 people attend shows at the Capitol Theater in a year, those people’s direct spending in the community is between $ 3 million and $ 5 million, including restaurants, the gasoline and retail.
The fact that Capito and Manchin have made a point of adding theater to their respective community project lists shows, in O’Brien’s mind, how important they both believe the Capitol Theater is to the community. region.
“I think this reaffirms our conviction”, O’Brien said. “We believe that Sens. Manchin and Capito see the role and importance of the historic Capitol Theater not only to Wheeling and the Northern Panhandle, but to the state as a whole. It has improved the quality of life for people for generations.
Now O’Brien and the rest of his team will be waiting to see if the theater makes the cut for funding. O’Brien said he was hopeful.
“I am very optimistic and I am also proud of the fact that the two senators occupy quite impressive positions in Congress” he said.