Swarm of termites reignites larger discussion of Saenger Theater repairs

Swarm of termites reignites larger discussion of Saenger Theater repairs

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - It was described like the scene from a horror movie. Termites swarming tiny ballerinas at the Saenger Theater in Biloxi.

"Toward the middle of our performance It was just full of termites, flying everywhere," said dance instructor Joleen Sanders, owner of Joleen's Stars of the South.

Thursday night's rehearsal for her dance team was a nightmare.

"They could not dance, could not perform," she said. "They had to keep their mouths closed the whole time because we had some who were swallowing them."

The issue with the termites is just part of the story. But what it has done is reignite a years-long discussion on how best to approach fixing the Saenger Theater.

Sanders has had her company performances at the theater for 11 years.

"This is where I always performed," she said. "And I think a great place for the kids to have that first experience of a show, a real performance."

But after some extensive renovations post-Katrina, including new seating and bathrooms, little money has been available to do anything more. But the good news is, the city of Biloxi now has a HUD grant worth about $100,000 for a comprehensive study on all the Saenger's issues - inside and out.

Because it's a historic building, repairs take time. The city will be taking bids for architectural firms on May 18, and the selection process could take 60 to 90 days. After the assessment is done, the city will then look for funding to do the renovations.

"The mayor does feel that it is a gem in the city of Biloxi," said Cecilia Dobbs Walton with the city of Biloxi. "It is in our downtown district. It was built in 1929 and it is one of the only Saenger theaters of its kind in this area and the city values it."

Trae Spears, owner of Downstage Productions, has done four shows at the Saenger.

"We have a lot of people coming to our shows here but I feel like they see that it's falling apart and they don't understand why," he said. "We definitely only critique it out of love because we want it to be the best that it can possibly be because we love this theater."

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