BY NADIA PRESSLEY
June 21, 2018 03:44 PM
Updated June 21, 2018 04:49 PM
The Grand Opera House in downtown Macon is undergoing major renovations.
“Look at it now because this is the last time you’ll see it as a junk room,” said Gram Slaton, executive director of The Grand Opera House, as he stood in an empty room located just left of the building’s entrance.
The “junk room” has been used for different purposes since 1904, from storefronts to county offices, but has been closed off to the public and used by The Grand Opera House as storage for years.
Now, the room will be put to use as a reception area. Slaton said the space will be rented out to the public for different events such as meetings and birthday parties.
The Grand Opera House received about $1 million in special purpose local option sales tax money to transform the room. The renovations also include doubling the size of the lobby space and restrooms, new video monitors, a second bar and installation of windows. This is part of the second phase of renovations at The Grand.
The renovations are expected to be completed by Oct. 12.
Phase one took place last summer with the installation of new carpet and seating, a new heating and air conditioning system and a new loading dock and dock elevator.
The Grand Opera House seats 1,030 people and is used for a variety of events such as concerts and plays, and it is rented to the public for private gatherings including weddings, receptions and award ceremonies.
Last year, Slaton told The Telegraph that the new improvements will allow the theater to have a longer season as well as draw in a bigger audience. Now that the first phase of renovations is done, The Grand did not see the boost in attendees that it hoped for.
“It always takes a season to transition people,” he said recently.
Slaton said the theater lost business because it was closed for renovations last summer. However, it has already seen an increase in bookings for the season that is to begin in October.
Phases one and two of The Grand Opera House renovations were both funded by the SPLOST, which provided a total of $2.9 million for the rehab.
County Commissioner Larry Schlesinger said The Grand Opera House has been in need of these renovations for a long time and deserves the funding.
“This is the primary venue for Broadway shows and many concerts,” he said. “It is a jewel in this community.”
More renovations are planned in the future.
A $23,500 grant from the Fox Theatre Institute funded a historic assets study, which revealed information about the second balcony and its significance during the Jim Crow era, when it was last used, Slaton said. Restorations are planned to preserve the history of the balcony and make it functional for guests.
Due to the construction on the Bibb County Courthouse next to The Grand, Slaton said the restoration is not slated to begin for another six to eight years.
Schlesinger said he is not certain where the funding for the these of renovations will come from, but the second balcony will be done to the same standards of all other seating in the venue.