Anyone who has stepped into Tampa Theatre can't forget it: the lighted marquee sign, hand-painted tiles in the lobby, crush-red seats, flickering wall lamps, the gargoyles and starlit sky. For 90 years, Tampa Theatre has been a showplace and a landmark, a part of the city's history that has left an imprint on generations. Now it needs to be carefully restored — a project worthy of community support.
The $6 million first phase of the campaign calls for the basics: new auditorium seating that will offer more comfortable chairs and legroom; upgrades to the electrical and lighting systems; fixes to stop flooding into the basements; new windows custom-made to resemble the 1926 originals; fresh paint and plaster; and a host of smaller improvements that will restore the theater in exacting detail.
This work doesn't come cheap, and officials have worked with care to restore the theater with architectural integrity. That is only befitting a landmark on the National Register of Historic Places — one heavily used, hosting some 600 events each year.
The big story in Tampa is how downtown is booming. But this downtown treasure is a big part of that renaissance. Even beyond the first phase of the restoration project, officials estimate Tampa Theatre will need another $6 million in renovations. With early pledges of support, Tampa Theatre could finish this work in a timely manner — and embark on the next phase with the surety it needs. This is a community gem, a unique public space and a trust for this generation to hand down in good shape to the next.