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Excellent Idea Was Supported

A burning piece of paper was a reminder Wednesday of what can be accomplished when a really good idea is suggested to the Wheeling-area community. People tend to unite behind it and get good things done.

A symbolic “mortgage burning” was held outside the Capitol Theatre on Wednesday evening. It marked the Wheeling Convention and Visitors Bureau’s feat in paying off a $1.9 million loan obtained a decade ago to buy and refurbish the theater.

Ten years ago, the theater’s survival was in question. The building had deteriorated to the point it was not safe. It was closed for that reason.

But the Capitol is both an important piece of Wheeling’s history and a key part of cultural life here. Community leaders decided it had to be saved.

A complex arrangement was worked out. The CVB would buy the building and its equipment, then would make repairs and improvements. Programming and management would be handled by the Greater Wheeling Sports and Entertainment Authority, an arm of city government that also operates WesBanco Arena.

Then, it was off to the races. Since September 2009, when the Capitol reopened, it has received more than $5.4 million from the CVB, state and federal grants and, notably, private contributions. It shows. The theater is a beautiful facility that would be a credit to cities much larger than Wheeling.

It provides a venue for the Wheeling Symphony Orchestra, entertainment brought in by the sports and entertainment authority and many local organizations in need of a high-capacity theater.

The Capitol’s future seems solid, especially in view of the wise planning that went into repairs and improvements. As CVB Executive Director Frank O’Brien noted this week, “We think we’ve reached a point where all the improvements won’t have to be repeated for another 20 or 30 years. That was important to us.”

Make no mistake about it: When the CVB plan was hatched in 2009, there was a period during which some people worried it might not work. But it did — simply because it was a good idea, devised to ensure a part of Wheeling’s past would become one of the keys to our future.

Congratulations — and thanks — to all involved.

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