Earlier this year, a fire marshal ordered the building's only fire escape closed after determining that the metal and wood (yes, wood) outdoor stairway is unsafe. Just to replace it will cost an estimated $1 million.
As a result, the theater's balcony is now closed, substantially reducing the theater's 600-seat capacity, although it still has more seats than the Firehouse Arts Center and is better suited for larger productions.
Water seepage on the south front corner of the theater is undermining some of the building's foundation. Although not a threat to the structure yet, it could call for major, costly reconstruction work.
With no elevators to the balcony or to basement rooms where actors prepare for their performances, the theater doesn't meet mandatory Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) standards. The theater also lacks a fire suppression sprinkler, also now a building code requirement. Although the Amador Theater has been "grandfathered" in over the years from building code updates, those days are over.
The theater was opened in 1932, just nine years after newly built Amador Valley High School graduated its first class. Since then, it has served as Pleasanton's and the school district's principal performing arts facility.
The structural problems apparently date back to its expansion and renovation that was completed in 1989 when the city of Pleasanton took ownership of the building. The Pleasanton Cultural Arts Council at that time spearheaded a fundraising drive, raising $800,000 in cash and in-kind materials, with the city government paying the rest of the $1.2 million needed in total funding.
As part of its agreement in taking ownership, the city allots 60 days a year for school performances and other uses.
City Manager Nelson Fialho said the Amador Theater is still used frequently and is still needed despite the availability of the Firehouse theater. Many of the city's most cherished productions -- and fundraisers -- require the 600-seat capacity of the Amador Theater, compared to the 220 seats at the Firehouse.
Now, time is running out on making needed repairs. Besides the need to replace the fire escape, the front facade is facing continued water damage. Some doors no longer close.
Although the City Council agreed to prioritize repair work at the theater, the building's dual ownership complicates the effort.
"Since the school district owns the land the theater sits on, anything we do to change the building will require clearance from the state architect before we can do the work," Fialho said. "That could take at least two years to get approved."
Another consideration by city and school district leaders would be to substantially renovate and retrofit the theater to serve not only cultural group productions but also the robust art and theater programs at both Amador Valley and Foothill high schools. This one facility could be shared by both schools with classrooms attached.
"In the meantime, we have a building that has been the cultural center of the city and needs a major upgrade," Fialho said. "What we have to do first is to have an engineering study to figure out all that needs to be done, get the dollar amounts and then figure out a way to finance it over time."
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