Built not long after the end of the Civil War, the Springer Opera House in downtown Columbus is about to enter the 21st century in a highly visible way.
The Uptown Facade Board on Monday approved two high-definition LED signs to be placed on the Springer property along 10th Street between First and Second avenues.
Paul Pierce, producing artistic director of the Springer Opera House, made the pitch to the board, reading off a prepared script. He did not downplay the importance of the signs to the Springer’s renewed marketing efforts.
“We are bursting at the seams and our story is fighting to get out,” Pierce said. “But the complexity of the Springer’s growing mission makes it impossible for us to tell our story on the outside of the building without the use of technology.”
Pierce was asking for a variance so that the LED signs could be installed. There will be two 70-square-foot signs, one on the Springer site at the intersection of Second Avenue and 10th Street. The other will be attached to the historic theater building along First Avenue.
They will replace the banners that hung off the buildings balcony. Originally, Springer officials had wanted to place the LED signs on either side of the balcony, but that was altered after some expressed concerns.
By comparison the RiverCenter for Performing Arts electronic sign at the intersection of 10th Street and Broadway is 120 square feet and is two-sided. The Board of Historic and Architectural Review approved the variance last week, leaving Facade Board approval as the final step before work could begin.
It was pointed out in the Facade Board that the RiverCenter sign was never approved by the board and did not have to be because it was located on state property and was exempt from the downtown sign restrictions.
“The Civic Center has this kind of sign, the RiverCenter does and we should approved this one,” said board member Steve Morse just before the unanimous vote.
The signs were made possible by a $100,000 grant from the Atlanta-based Arthur Blank Family Foundation. The Springer, also the state theater of Georgia, is the only arts organization outside of Atlanta working with the Blank Family Foundation on arts marketing, Pierce said. Blank is one of the founders of Home Depot and the owner of the Atlanta Falcons.
This grant is an outgrowth of that yearlong relationship with the Blank Family Foundation.
“As far as we know, this is the first and only Arthur Blank Foundation grant that Columbus has ever received,” Pierce said. “Forgive us for being a little proud that one of America’s most forward-thinking charitable foundations has recognized the Springer as an innovative institution in line with its mission and values.”
Work to install the signs will begin soon and should be completed in the next few months. The Springer’s new season starts in September.
“We hope to have it done by then, but it might not be finished,” Pierce said.
Increased ticket sales in one of the ways the Springer hopes to spur financial growth, Pierce said.
The Springer is facing an existential threat, he said.
“Our audiences, our donors and our sponsors are doing their jobs by supporting the Springer generously,” Pierce said. “But the upward momentum in ticket sales revenue must continue and accelerate if we are to protect the Springer for another 146 years. We must drill deeper into our community and reach new audiences in our region and our nation.”
The Springer signs will be a higher resolution than the one at the RiverCenter and will be idea for video that showcases what is happening inside the theater, Pierce said.
“We can now show what is happening on the inside of the building on the outside,” he said.