Our View: Leeds is a diamond in the rough

Published 10:16 am Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Today, Leeds Center for the Arts wraps up its latest show, a production of “The Wizard of Oz Young Performers Edition.”

This year, Leeds has hosted dozens of shows, workshops, guest entertainers, fundraisers and community gatherings. The 91-year-old theater, which is the anchor of North Main Street in downtown Winchester, is at the helm of a renaissance in our community. 

Leeds Theater, now known as Leeds Center for the Arts, was built in 1925 and served as a popular local movie theater until it closed in 1986. 

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After the closure, the Winchester Council for the Arts purchased the theater and made some renovations, but over the past 25 years the building has fallen into disrepair.  The Winchester Council for the Arts has been working to raise money to continue restoring the building to its former glory.

The roof was replaced a year ago, and the board has been focusing on the interior of the theater.

Last week, the Winchester Board of Commissioner voted to cover up to $15,000 of operating expenses for the theater while it undergoes its most significant renovation in the last two decades. The money will help pay for the utilities and insurance while it is closed from December to April 2017. 

The iconic theater will get the much-needed restoration and repairs thanks to an anonymous donation of $100,000 that came earlier this year. Part of that donation was matched with an additional $50,000 from the Clark County Community Foundation. 

While closed, the theater will have repairs made from front to back, including replacing plaster damaged by the leaking roof, remodeled bathrooms, new carpet and fresh paint throughout. When the theater reopens in the spring, it will also have repaired windows, new doors and brand new stage curtains will open to its first show in the renovated building. 

Leeds has become a valuable art venue, community gathering place and educational outreach center.  The theater is host to theater, speakers, musicians, magicians and the occasional movie showing.

The community should be proud not only of the theater’s rich history and character, but of its bright future. The glow Leeds offers downtown extends much further than the iconic marquee that illuminates Main Street. It’s been a defining feature of our community for nearly a century, and it’s finally getting the attention it so desperately needs and deserves.

Few communities of our size boast such a prolific performing arts center and a team of dedicated individuals who are passionately working to revive the arts.

The historic theater is a gem in our community that’s about to get some much needed buffing, and we can’t wait to see it shine.