SHERIDAN — The WYO Theater will soon begin phase two of its expansion, which will bring the Hallmark building up to date as well as provide additional space to the theater.
WYO Theater Executive Director Erin Butler said with the addition of the Hallmark building, the theater will be able to expand its backstage and lobby as well as add a dance studio.
“You know, we have rehearsals in here; we have classes in here; we have things that are always happening in this building,” Butler said. “And so to be able to renovate it and make it more useful space is, well, it’s extremely exciting.”
The Hallmark building has a rich past that dates back to the early 1900s and includes classic design aesthetics, but the history comes with modern construction complications.
“Currently people are rehearsing upstairs in the third floor, and this is a very old building,” Butler said. “The ceiling’s literally falling in.”
While she said that currently the building doesn’t pose substantial dangers to occupants, it’s important to repair it before small problems become worse.
Other updates include fixing the heating and cooling throughout the building, adding an internal elevator and making rooms more open with windows.
The theater will bring a youthful zest while keeping the building’s character throughout the renovations. Butler said she hopes they’ll uncover hidden gems like brick walls, exposed beams and natural floors, that can be used to highlight the building’s history, ultimately adding the building to the mosaic of properties now associated with the WYO.
“It’s interesting because you can see the WYO, you see the façade, it’s this really great kind of ‘20s art deco thing, and then moving south into the Mars, it’s a very different feel from the outside,” Butler said. “So we want to incorporate the historic nature of this building specifically — and maybe it has a different look than the other two buildings.”
Northern Wyoming Community College District Vice President for External Relations and Economic Development Susan Bigelow said the project is possible with partnerships among the city, the Whitney Benefits Foundation, the WYO Theater and the college.
She said using the Hallmark building in this project was the goal since Whitney Benefits purchased it more than a decade ago. It was the donation of the building to the college as a non-cash match that ultimately made the project eligible for the $2 million grant.
Bigelow said the grant will not cover all renovations and the priority is maintenance on the property followed by the additional theater space. They’ve had a structural engineer examine the Hallmark building and found it’s structurally sound, and Butler said she thinks construction should start by January 2017.
With one of the largest seasons for the WYO coming up, Butler said they’ll have to work closely with the construction crew so the theater can continue to operate during the renovations. She said the staff and users of the building may have to get creative when construction punches through to the lobby, but the WYO will continue to operate at least through June. Once construction is done, though, it will allow for more events and larger audiences, something Butler said she hopes the community will enjoy.
“It’s great. We’re excited — we’re excited to be right next to SAGE (Sagebrush Community Art Center), and to be moving forward,” Butler said. “And hopefully benefiting downtown Sheridan. That’s our hope.”