South Pittsburg board approves grant application for Princess Theater despite massive budget overage

South Pittsburg board approves grant application for Princess Theater despite massive budget overage

May 19th, 2019 by Ryan Lewis in Local Regional News

The marquee at the restored Princess Theater welcomes visitors at the National Cornbread Festival on Aug. 26, 2015, in South Pittsburg, Tenn.

Photo by John Rawlston /Times Free Press.

South Pittsburg Mayor Virgil Holder addresses his concerns over the Princess Theater's budget overages last week.

South Pittsburg Mayor Virgil Holder addresses his concerns...

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

SOUTH PITTSBURG, Tenn. — Organizers at South Pittsburg's historic Princess Theater have been struggling to book some performers there, and City Administrator Gene Vess said it's due to some negative feedback they received.

At the May meeting of the South Pittsburg City Commission, Vess said officials recently found out they had the opportunity to apply for some funding through the Tennessee Department of Tourism Enhancement Grant Program to help.

"I've been working diligently with the South Pittsburg Historical Preservation Society, along with Amy Gray, who's been working with Southeast Tennessee Development to get everything together for us, so we can apply for this grant," he told the board.

If awarded, the money would be used to upgrade lighting and acoustics at the Princess Theater, which dates back to 1920.

Vess said city officials have been told "numerous times" from some who have performed at the Princess that the acoustics there are "terrible."

"Therefore, in some cases, we're not able to draw the crowd we'd like to draw because we can't get the caliber of [performers] we want coming in because of the feedback," he said.

The grant is worth $71,500, but it includes a 10 percent matching funds requirement.

That means South Pittsburg would have to pay $7,150.

Mayor Virgil Holder said even though the grant sounds "great," the Princess is already 300% over budget for the fiscal year with almost a quarter to go.

"Now we're being asked to put up another $7,000 on it," he said. "Can the city afford it? That's my concern."

No one offered an answer to Holder's question.

The board voted 4-1 to apply for the grant, and Holder cast the lone dissenting vote.

Ronnie Hudson, who oversees some activities at the Princess Theater, said the town has a commitment from "some other folks" to donate a portion of the city's matching requirement.

He said South Pittsburg would have to "come up with very little money" to meet the requirement.

"We just need to fix the sound problems that we have and some of the light problems," Vess said. "That's what this grant will do."

Ryan Lewis is based in Marion County. Contact him at ryanlewis34@gmail.com.


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