The Stevens Point opera house gets a face lift

Updated: May. 17, 2021 at 9:44 PM CDT
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STEVENS POINT, Wis. (WSAW) - Monday owners of the Stevens Point opera house removed the iconic Fox Theater marquee from its façade.

“That’s what this group is trying to do is restore it to its original look, not the look we remember from the ’60s and ’70s, but the original look. And honestly, it’s probably much more practical, since it’s not going to be a movie theater anymore, what do you put up on the marquee?” said Mayor Mike Wiza.

An arts organization called Create Portage County previously owned the building but didn’t have the money to pay for necessary repairs. For years the building had sat unoccupied and in need of maintenance. Leaks in the roof contributed to its decay.

“We decided to take the building over. We didn’t have the ability to save it, nor did we have the money to fix it, so what we did was have an engineer go in and determine if all of it needed to come down and it didn’t,” Wiza said.

The back two-thirds were structurally unsound, and demolition on that had to be done. Fortunately, a good section visible from Main Street was able to be salvaged.

“The front third, which is basically the lobby of the theater, and then the second floor which is a big events space, a ballroom for all intents and purposes, we were able to save that,” Wiza said.

The city of Stevens Point then looked over proposals from groups that could repurpose the old theater. Wild Card Corporation, a cybersecurity, web development and IT solutions company, came to the rescue.

“We have other buildings here as well. We saw a need here, we saw an opportunity, and basically, we’re saying that events space is needed down here and we own the building right next to it, so that would be the next step for us,” said Wild Card Customer Success Manager Joe Schoenberg.

Wild Card understands that residents of Stevens Point may have fond memories of the Fox Theater and have mixed feelings about the marquee’s removal. They say they will display the important parts of the sign inside the renovated space.

“It’s been part of the community for that long, but what we’re looking at is if you go back to the original, The actual opera house was here long before Fox was, and we want to keep it that way.”

The renovated building will house a catering kitchen and events space, and will feature a German-style beer garden in the back.

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