Council OKs $60,000 to aid Playhouse

Half is a grant and half is a loan.
YOUNGSTOWN -- City council has approved a financial bailout to keep the Youngstown Playhouse operating and allow it to be renovated and expanded.
Council provided $60,000 in financial assistance from the Community Development Agency to the playhouse, $30,000 of it as a grant, and the other $30,000 as a loan.
"If the city is unable to come forward and help the Playhouse in this fashion, there is a very high probability that the Playhouse will close its doors," Mayor George McKelvey told councilmen before they voted Wednesday night.
"That playhouse represents all the schools in our area, and we need to have that in place for our children," said Councilman James E. Fortune Sr., D-6th.
"We've seen too many things slip away from this community over the years. For my children and their children to come, I can't see letting this slip away," said Councilman Michael Rapovy, D-5th.
"It's not only good for Youngstown. This is a project for the Valley," said Councilman John Nittoli, D-7th.
Bank forgives $80,000
The $60,000 would go to First Place Bank, to which the Playhouse owed $140,000 it had borrowed for operations and capital improvements, said David Bozanich, city finance director. The bank has agreed to accept the $60,000 and forgive the additional $80,000 owed, he added.
The financial bailout allowed the Playhouse to proceed with a $2 million federally funded renovation and expansion project. Federal officials wanted the Playhouse to be debt-free, Bozanich continued.
"It allows them to go forward with the improvements. It allows them to clean up their balance sheet. It allows the bank to make a worthwhile contribution back into the community," Bozanich said. "So, from an overall perspective, we thought we were able to accomplish a lot in terms of leveraging a little bit of city money to get a lot of benefit."
Adds another theater
The expansion will add another theater to the complex so it can be used for two simultaneous activities. This will allow the Playhouse to rent space to community organizations, said Robert Vargo, Playhouse managing director.
Founded in 1924, the Playhouse, located off Glenwood Avenue, is the oldest community theater in continuous operation in the United States.
"We are attempting to make this playhouse more user-friendly," said John Maluso, president of the Playhouse board. "There is a great amount of work that can be done to make that place usable by everybody in this community as a meeting place and to offer exercise and play experience for the youth of our city,'' he added.

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