Tampa Theatre Seeks Restoration Funds

Officials for a historic theater in Tampa are seeking millions in updates to restore the venue to its former glory. 

Photo: Shawn Bussey

The Tampa Theatre opened as a movie palace in 1926 and showed movies for decades. The venue nearly met the wrecking ball in the ’70s but the city rallied to save it, eventually establishing a nonprofit to oversee the building, which now features concerts and other events in addition to films.

The theatre still operates with its original electrical infrastructure, which some say leaves the venue vulnerable should the system simply stop working one day.

“We have an electrical system that after 89 years still works, knock on wood, but every morning we have to kind of cross our fingers and hope when we turn it on it’s all going to power up and that it’s all going to make the building go,” the theatre’s Jill Witacki told the local WFTS-TV. Additional needed renovations include plumbing and climate control work, modernization of the theatre’s production systems, new seats, ADA compliance upgrades, restroom improvements and restoration of decorative plaster and painting, officials said.

The venue is in line to receive $1 million from the Florida House of Representatives for capital improvements, but the long list of renovations has been estimated to hover closer to the $10 million mark, WFTS reported.