Business & Development

Cottage Theatre starts remodel

An architect’s rendering of the theatre’s new facade once the project is completed in 2021. Photos Provided/Susan Goes

After years in the making, Cottage Theatre is moving forward with their remodeling plans. Although unexpected changes in cost over the years required a different strategy, Executive Director Susan Goes said this summer they are getting started on their plan to grow the long-term health of the organization.
”Our ultimate goal is to have this be the finest place to see live theatre in Lane County,” Goes said. ”It’s already a lovely facility and this will really take it the next notch.”
The theatre board has dubbed this project ”Act 3, Scene 1” – a theatre reference that corresponds to this being the theatre’s third major change and the first stage of this project’s remodel. Changes that will be made during this stage include replacing the old seats with new ones for comfort, repainting the backstage area and putting in half of the new fire sprinkler system.
”What we’re doing this summer is more modest than we originally planned, but we still plan to go forward with the full project in a couple of years,” Goes explained.
In 2021, the renovations for Scene 2 will occur, which will focus more on acoustics, including upgrading sound speakers and systems, and installing a hearing loop to support individuals with hearing challenges. The loop is the latest support technology and is compatible with most hearing aids; music and voices will come directly from the sound system into their hearing device.
”We do have a lot of senior audience members, including some long-standing patrons, that ultimately get frustrated because if you come to a play and you can’t hear or understand what’s going on, it’s not as fun,” Goes explained. ”So, I’m really excited about what that will mean for many of our patrons.”
She added that she’s most excited for the improvements that will enhance the audience’s experience, which will really be focused on adding more comfortable seats, improving line of sight, and acoustics. The final remodel will also add 50 new seats to the theatre.
The idea to remodel the theatre started in 2011 when the board was coming up with a strategy to increase revenue for the theatre. After surveys and focus groups they concluded the best way would be to support the long-term health of the organization, and they started to look at what they could grow.
The theatre added showings on Thursday, which bumped capacity by 20%; however, it has now been averaging 95% capacity and they needed to add more seats. Seats were also on the list because they were put in used when the theatre was first built in 1998.
”We thought, while replacing seats and needing to grow revenue, let’s remodel,” Goes said.
After looking at initial designs and estimates, the project in 2014 looked like it would cost between $80,000 and $1.2 million. When the theatre started funding in 2016, it received a pledge by an individual donor, as well as state funding through the Cultural Advocacy Coalition. In 2018, the theatre wanted to add the sound equipment to fix the acoustics as well as a new curtain, and received more donations and grants, as well as support from Travel Oregon.
The theatre was aiming for the four-month construction project to happen in the summer of 2019, but in April when the bids came back for construction, it was an estimated $2.5 million cost – $1 million over budget.
Goes said that they had already started to move costumes out of the theatre and were ready for the project to start. She said the consensus was, ”’We just have to do this. We’ve said we’re going to do it, let’s just go get a loan and we’ll figure it out later,’ which was a normal human reaction – but when we got a loan offer on the table and really looked at the costs of financing, we said, ‘Okay, we are not being prudent stewards here.’”
At this point, the theatre is still accepting donations, and community members can get involved by sponsoring new seats if they want to help the fundraising process.
Despite forcing the project into phases, Goes said she’s looking forward to what the remodel will mean for Cottage Grove as a whole. She said that the reason they were able to attract state funding was because 70% of their audience comes from outside Cottage Grove, and 11% come from over 50 miles away.
”We are conscious of the role that we play within Cottage Grove as sort of one of the magnets for visitors,” Goes said. ”So, there’s a spillover economic impact and we’re really excited about the (expanded) role that we will play, that the additional seating capacity will allow.”



View this profile on Instagram


The Chronicle (@thechronicle1909) • Instagram photos and videos