Saenger Theatre repairs in jeopardy after funding denied

Saenger Theatre repairs in jeopardy after funding denied

BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - Right now, the box office at the Saenger Theatre in Biloxi is empty. Empty seats overlook an empty stage. This will remain scene until necessary work can be completed to improve the building's integrity.

That work, which the city hoped to use Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) to help pay for, has now been put on hold.

"We received money in the past for repairs on the Saenger Theatre, so we thought it would be eligible," said Cecilia Dobbs-Walton with the city of Biloxi. "Which, they decided it is not eligible, so the city of Biloxi has had to reconfigure some of the money to do the repairs."

Dobbs-Walton says the initial work on the outside of the building includes water proofing the brick, repairing the awning, and replacing the roof and air conditioning units.

That work must be done before any improvements can be made on the inside.

For many people on the coast, performing on this stage is something they look forward to their whole lives. But as it stands, many will not have that chance to look out over an audience until the work is completed.

"The city of Biloxi is notifying anybody who wants to use the facility, starting in June of this year and for about six to nine months following that, we're letting them know that repairs will be going on to the Saenger Theatre, and there are other facilities [they can use] such as the Frank Gruich Community Center and the Civic Center both on Howard Avenue," Dobbs-Walton said.

The price tag is big, but she believes the city will find the funds.

"It's about 700 thousand dollars," she said. "We actually have money in the city of Biloxi we're just going to move around to make these exterior repairs happen."

Once the work begins, it is expected to last about 6 to 9 months. Then the process of bidding can begin for the interior work, meaning the Saenger could be 90 years old before performances resume.

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