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Columbia Gas of Kentucky donates $15,000 to Kentucky Theatre

Jim Gray, left, Friends of Kentucky Theatre Co-chair Steve Grossman and Columbia Gas President Herb Miller, right holding the check, announced a Columbia Gas contribution to the theater. Photo by Tom Hurley
Jim Gray, left, Friends of Kentucky Theatre Co-chair Steve Grossman and Columbia Gas President Herb Miller, right holding the check, announced a Columbia Gas contribution to the theater. Photo by Tom Hurley

The Kentucky Theatre took another step toward a financial goal for renovation of the 91-year-old landmark Friday when Columbia Gas of Kentucky donated $15,000.

More than $575,000 has now been raised toward the $1 million target set by the Friends of the Kentucky Theater to complete improvements to the building. The city of Lexington has contributed $250,000. Mayor Jim Gray thanked Columbia Gas for the donation and praised fundraising efforts of the "wonderful" volunteer Friends of the Kentucky committee.

"The movement forward into our future that this renovation represents ... is a big deal for Lexington," Gray said. "So much of this is really about valuing, recognizing and preserving what is unique and special and authentic about our city; and so much of that is our history."

Gray singled out Friends of Kentucky chairwoman Isabel Yates for enhancing and preserving the theater. He compared Yates' work to the vision Walt Disney had when making plans to build Disney World.

Yates has spearheaded a campaign to restore the theater. Carpets and chairs were deteriorating, and projection equipment had fallen behind technological advances.

Since October, the group has raised enough money to install digital projectors, which improved the sound and picture quality of movies shown there.

The next phase involves repainting portions of the theater and installing new seats and carpeting.

Initially, $1.5 million in contributions was needed, but Friends of the Kentucky Theatre co-chairman Steve Grossman said discounted prices helped to reduce the goal.

"We were actually able to get, thanks in part to a number of folks on this committee, a lot of really great pricing on the items in the theater, which has dramatically reduced the cost," Grossman said.

Herb Miller, president of Columbia Gas of Kentucky, presented the $15,000 check to Grossman. Miller said he and his wife, Cindy, met at the theater in 1974.

"It was a great day for me, and I'm proud to be a part of the history of this grand old theater," Miller said.

When renovations are complete, the city-owned landmark will "be a wonderful place for families" to visit, Miller said.

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