BILOXI, Miss. (WLOX) - Renovations to the historic Saenger Theater, according to city officials, are still set to proceed. Social media posts began swirling around Saturday as concerned theater fans learned of the comments made two weeks ago by some Biloxi City Council members. Those comments: tear down the Saenger.
This Tuesday, Gwen Gollotte will speak in front of the council about the theater. She was the chairman of restoration and finance when the facility went through renovations in 1976.
“It was my first movie when I came to Biloxi," Gollotte said. "I said, ‘where can I go to a movie?’ He said, ‘oh to the Saenger.’ I said, ‘where’s the Saenger?’ Because, I had come to Biloxi on a bus.”
Gollotte’s love for the Saneger Theater began in the 1940s when she came to Biloxi for nursing school. Today, the iconic theater sits in disrepair and at the mercy of its city leadership.
“It’s a 90-something year old building that’s been neglected for a long time. There’s no telling how much money this is gonna cost," said Biloxi Councilman Robert Deming III. "We’re talking about a considerable amount of money. I know it’s the most unpopular thing to say tonight, but I would rather build a state of the art, fully functional facility for less than that amount of money.”
While Deming and others feel that the city might be better served with a shiny new penny, Gollotte doesn’t want to lose the historical integrity that the Saenger brings to Biloxi.
“That theater has been such a big part, that and our lighthouse. When the hurricanes have come, and the people have evacuated, they would look on TV, what’s left?" asked Gollotte. "They see the lighthouse, they see the theater, and they’re so grateful. Those two things have maintained their life here.”
Gollotte said that the repairs must happen soon.
“We’d like to get it open. They have a lot of work to do, but we must get it open quickly, if we can," Gollotte said. "People just want to go and enjoy and be there.”
Biloxi Public Affairs Specialist Cecilia Dobbs-Walton said that the administration is actively pursuing funding to complete the renovations projected to cost $2.1 million.
“The administration’s goal is and has always been to get the theater up and running as soon as possible,” Dobbs-Walton said.
The council tabled the resolution to accept the bid to repair the building’s exterior and fly tower. They will vote again on the resolution in August. Gwen Gollotte will speak to the city council this Tuesday at 1:30 during their regularly scheduled meeting at City Hall in Biloxi