$225,000 awarded for unique tourism development project in Lexington

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$225,000 awarded for unique tourism development project in Lexington

The Nebraska Department of Economic Development (DED) has awarded the City of Lexington with $225,000 in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding in the Tourism Development category to renovate the Majestic Theater.

The Nebraska Department of Economic Development (DED) has awarded the City of Lexington with $225,000 in Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding in the Tourism Development category to renovate the Majestic Theater.

In turn, the City will award the funding to the Dawson County School District, which owns the nearly 100-year-old building that closed in 2009.

A unique, collaborative effort was sparked by a group of visionary eighth graders in 2011 that proposed the “Save the Majestic Theater” project to the Lexington School Board. The project included a well-developed strategy and fundraiser for transforming the old building into a community theater and student learning center. Buy-in to the project was strong and immediate from students and staff from all Lexington public schools.

Impressed with their initiative, the School District purchased the building and the eighth graders began selling t-shirts and promoting the project via a video, posters and presentations to Lexington businesses and organizations. In a year, the students had raised $25,000, further secured by a $75,000 contribution of 2012 Key fundraising proceeds through the Lexington Community Foundation. The Foundation also has committed an additional one-third of its 2013 Key fundraiser to the project, estimated at $80,000.  Other partners in the project include the Lexington Chamber of Commerce, and many business and citizen contributors.

To date, students have removed all old seating, the aging concession stand, and many other pieces of the theater. When it was learned the building contained asbestos, students contracted with a licensed removal company that donated its services when hearing more about the project. Other renovations will include modifications to bring the building into compliance with the American With Disabilities Act, new plumbing and electrical wiring, installation of new seating and a new lobby, among other work.

Potential impacts and targeted patrons of the refurbished Majestic Theater are many: movies for audiences of all ages; art shows; historical traveling exhibits (including quilt exhibits); local playhouse production; traveling humanities productions; musical programs; site for local festivities surrounding annual celebrations; learning and practice center for students (music, art, drama); historical productions about Lexington and the area; and cultural events and productions.

Owned by one family, the Majestic Theater was continuously operated as a movie theater until its shuttering in 2009. With the building’s century anniversary approaching in 2015, students hope to plan a grand reopening in time for current sophomores to mark and celebrate their senior years.

Federal funds are made available to DED from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s CDBG program to assist with the development of businesses and communities throughout the state. Funding requests for the program are administered by DED and available to local governments with populations less than 50,000 and counties in Nebraska.

For information about the Lexington project, contact Joe Pepplitsch at 308-324-4590, or jpepp@cityoflex.com

For information about CDBG Tourism Development funding, contact Steve Charleston at 800-426-6505, 402-471-3757, or steve.charleston@nebraska.gov .

For information about this article and other DED press releases contact Patty Wood at 800-426-6505, 402-471-1559, or email:patty.wood@nebraska.gov