Park Theater ready for prime time

McMinnville venue will re-open Saturday after years of planning

The Park Theater in McMinnville will re-open Saturday, May 16.
The Park Theater in McMinnville will re-open Saturday, May 16.

MCMINNVILLE – The marquee – brightly lit and standing tall – says it all. Mark your calendars for this Saturday. The Park Theater in downtown McMinnville is finally ready for its encore.

After 13 months of construction – and more than a decade of planning to save the 1930s movie house – the theater’s renovation is complete. Among the improvements: a new roof, new seating, restorations aplenty and an expansion that made way for a new, larger stage.

“It was pretty much restored from the ground up,” Park Theater coordinator Sara Morgan said. “They had to rebuild the stage, they expanded (the building) out to the alleyway, there’s dressing rooms that weren’t there before. We were able to salvage most of the (decorative) medallions; we did have to make one new medallion from scratch. They were able to restore the original terrazzo floors in lobby. That was a huge deal as well.”

The grand re-opening, which will start with an open house at 10 a.m. Saturday, is obviously a signature event for those who have worked to save the structure, which originally opened in 1939 in grand fashion and served as a cultural center for the city for years. Movies were shown here until the theater closed its doors in the ’80s. In 2001, a group of concerned citizens, the Park Theatre Group, organized to help save the structure – it was their goal to re-open it was a venue for community theater, music performances, workshops and more. The city of McMinnville purchased the building in 2002 – but it took a decade before construction began. A certificate of occupancy was officially granted last week.

“It’s huge for this community. People are excited, talking nonstop,” Morgan said. “We’ve gotten so many phone calls and emails and messages just asking about the event – even starting several weeks ago. I think it’s going to be a wonderful addition to this town.”

Saturday’s open house will run until 5 p.m., and several local bands will play throughout the day, including Thunder Creek, Josh Wanamaker and The Locals, among others. A ribbon cutting will be held under the marquee at 6:30 p.m., followed by music by the South Jackson Street band from 7:30-10 p.m. Free tickets are available for the South Jackson Street performance online at the Park Theater’s Facebook page.

The Park Theater is managed and run by the city of McMinnville under the McMinnville Parks and Recreation Department. Construction was funded with a $2 million bond issue approved by voters in 2012.

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