Group Buys Capitol Music Hall

WHEELING – The Capitol Music Hall’s purchase by the Wheeling Convention and Visitor’s Bureau creates a “critical mass of entertainment facilities” in Wheeling, WesBanco Arena General Manager Dennis Magruder believes.

The venue also will be a “new music hall, not the music hall of yesterday,” Magruder added during this morning’s official announcement of the Capitol’s purchase.

The Wheeling CVB paid $615,000 for the structure, using revenue generated through Ohio County’s hotel/motel tax.

Magruder, who will be overseeing the Capitol as part of his duties at WesBanco Arena, said he plans to work with local groups that operate similar venues to ensure the area maximizes its entertainment lineup.

“We will work with Ohio County Schools as they work to build the new performing arts center; we will work with Earl Brown at the Victoria and the folks at Wheeling Island,” Magruder said. “And to the Wheeling Symphony I say this: welcome home.”

Magruder said that under his leadership, the Capitol will be heading in a different direction from years past. “We are going a different way. We are going to be looking at options such as … possibly a film festival. We won’t compete with the cinemas, but we believe there are some things we can do to maximize use of the Capitol.

“We also will be looking to all of the folks in the community over the next few months to get their input into what they would like to see at the Capitol.”

While the talk this morning was positive concerning the Capitol’s impact on the downtown area, the venue likely will not be profitable. A feasibility study done on the structure estimates it will lose nearly $73,000 in its first year of operation.

The Ohio Valley Area Development Corp. has the title to the property, said Hydie Friend, Convention and Visitor’s Bureau board president and executive director of the Wheeling National Heritage Area Corp. The Ohio Valley Area Development Corp. is the city of Wheeling’s economic development arm, and it works in much the same way the Ohio County Development Authority does with the Ohio County Commission and The Highlands.

According to the feasibility study conducted by Washington, D.C.-based Economics Research Associates, the re-opening of the Capitol Music Hall will have an economic impact of more than $5.5 million on the local region, create 65 new spin-off jobs with an estimated $1.3 million annual payroll and generate more than $174,000 in new tax revenue.

However, that same study, which was funded privately by the Benedum Foundation, projects a net operating loss of $72,586 the first year. That figure does not include additional costs for depreciation or funding for future repairs or replacement needs.

The Capitol will be operated by the Wheeling Municipal Auditorium Board and Magruder. Friend said today the Capitol should be ready to accommodate the Wheeling Symphony Orchestra’s fall schedule.

”This is an historic day for our community, and we are proud to be re-opening a building that houses so many memories,” said Frank O’Brien, executive director of the Wheeling-Ohio County CVB.

”The reputation of the Capitol Music Hall is nothing short of legendary. We are excited to fill the building with the same enthusiasm and life that it portrayed when its doors opened over 80 years ago.”

Friend said by placing the Capitol operations in the hands of Magruder, who already oversees events at WesBanco Arena and Heritage Port, the city is adding to its ”entertainment venue portfolio.”

Immediate renovations to the interior will ensure the building is modernized and meets current code standards. The partnership plans to restore the building to maintain its architectural integrity, Friend pointed out.

”Renovations are going to be addressed, with the first priority to be the code violations,” Friend said. ”The basic safety codes of the building include things like the exit and emergency lighting, (adding sprinklers to) the building and putting in a new fire escape tower.”

The renovations are expected to be funded through ”a blend of private investment, CVB investments and grants,” Friend added.

Friend said the effort to save the Capitol was a collaboration among a host of stakeholders such as local business and community leaders. They include G. Randolph Worls, the Oglebay Foundation, who serves as co-chair of the stakeholder group; Friend; Wheeling Mayor Andy McKenzie; City Manager Robert Herron; Don T. Rigby, RED; O’Leary; O’Brien; Doug Dalby, Wheeling Park Commission; Magruder; Ohio County Commissioner David Sims; Ohio County Administrator Greg Stewart; David McKinley, McKinley & Associates; Susan Hogan, Wheeling Symphony Society; Ross Felton, former general manager of the Capitol Music Hall; Doug Paisley, father of country music star Brad Paisley; and Jeremy Morris, WNHAC.