ASU Three Rivers receives 3rd grant for Ritz restoration

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For The Arkadelphian

MALVERN — Arkansas State University Three Rivers received a grant of $861,277 from the Arkansas Natural and Cultural Resources Council (ANCRC) at its meeting on Wednesday, May 12. The grant will be used to begin Phase III of the Historic Ritz Theatre Restoration.

Pictured, from left, are Rodney Allen, ASUTR Board of Visitor Chair, Dr. Steve Rook, ASUTR Chancellor, Diann Gathright, grant writer, and Shane Broadway, ASU System vice president for university relations. | Submitted photo

The council distributed $35.9 million to 20 projects that will restore and protect state-owned lands and property.

 “We saw a lot of changes to the exterior of the theatre in 2020 during Phase I of the restoration. In 2021, Phase II focused on finishing the exterior and beginning work on the interior.  We are excited about the progress made thus far,” Dr. Steve Rook, Chancellor of ASU Three Rivers stated. “While you may not see as much activity on the exterior of the theatre during this next phase, know that there is still lots of work being conducted on the interior of the theatre.” 

Phase I consisted of roof demolition and repair followed by the installation of a new roof and awning anchor for the new marquee; the entrance was restored with original entry tile being discovered; restored the front doors to 1948 location and style, and exterior front wall tile was replaced.

During Phase II, the interior dividing wall between the two lower theatres was removed and the balcony was opened up restoring the three single theatres back to one open auditorium with a stage; and the mechanical/electrical room structure was removed and replaced. The new marquee and blade sign was installed in March and a lighting ceremony was held in April for the new signs. Additionally, the exterior exit stair, fire protection/alarm systems, electrical systems, HVAC systems, and plumbing were installed.

In Phase III, the focus will be on the final installation of the utilities — electrical, plumbing, fire alarms, HVAC – and preparing the interior of the building for fixtures and equipment.

Stacy Hurst, secretary of the Arkansas Department of Parks, Heritage and Tourism, who serves as secretary of the ANCRC said, “The ANCRC Trust Fund has funded over $495 million in projects since its first grants were made in 1989. Many important buildings and properties across Arkansas have been saved for future generations by the fund, and we are a better state for it.”

Rook added, “The College deeply appreciates the continued support of Debra Fithen, Grants Manager, Arkansas Heritage, Stacy Hurst, and the members of the Arkansas Natural and Cultural Resources Commission.”

ANCRC has funded the restoration and preservation of such iconic properties as the Arkansas State Capitol, Old Main on the University of Arkansas, Fayetteville campus, Lakeport Plantation in Chicot County and the Johnny Cash Home in Dyess.

The Arkansas Natural and Cultural Resources Council (ANCRC) was established by Arkansas Act 729 of 1987. Its grants and trust fund are managed for the acquisition, management and stewardship of state-owned lands, or the preservation of state-owned historic sites, buildings, structures or objects which the ANCRC determines to be of value for recreation or conservation purposes. The properties are to be used, preserved and conserved for the benefit of present and future generations.

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