ST. CHARLES – If the historic Arcada Theatre in St. Charles does not get repairs to its restrooms, more electric capacity and an upgraded heating, ventilating and air conditioning system, Ron Onesti said he would close it by Dec. 31.
Onesti runs the theater venue, but does not own it.
Onesti said he has invested about $750,000 of his own money into the building over the last 11 years fixing seats, lights, drainage, ceilings, walls, electric, plumbing, dressing rooms, flooring and staging.
“The crowds are larger; the acts are larger; the quantity of shows is larger, and people coming here deserve to have a quality experience – including temperature control and restrooms,” Onesti said. “The building is antiquated. It was built in 1926 before 64-ounce beers and chili dogs.”
If help is not forthcoming, however, Onesti said Dec. 31 would be his last show and he might relocate to Geneva.
“Geneva is a great option,” Onesti said.
“Geneva is one of a dozen possibilities. I would not rule it out.”
Geneva Mayor Kevin Burns said if Onesti submits a proposal to situate a theater in Geneva, he would be welcome to do that.
But Burns added the city has a reputation of not poaching businesses from neighboring communities.
“I’m proud of Geneva’s reputation as the heart of the arts in the western suburbs,” Burns said.
“And I believe the community will always welcome the opportunity to expand that.”
St. Charles City Administrator Mark Koenen said it is generally acknowledged that the Arcada brings value to the city and its downtown entertainment district.
“The downtown is busy on show nights, for sure,” Koenen said.
“If we can be a partner in fulfilling that vision, we will continue to push that forward.”
Koenen said what the city will do would require a meeting with Onesti.
“We need to get the right people in the room to see if we can satisfy Ron’s needs for air conditioning and restrooms,” Koenen said.
Onesti’s concerns about the 90-year-old Arcada building were detailed in an email to St. Charles city officials.
The email became public when aldermen approved minutes of their June 3 retreat, where they discussed the Arcada’s issues.
“Dec. 31 will be my last show at the Arcada,” Onesti stated in the email. “I have a month-to-month [lease] with [owner Scott] Price now.”
Onesti rejected using portable toilets because they won’t fit in an area in back of the theater, according to the minutes.
“Put a referendum together to fix the building for what it was purchased for,” Onesti’s email stated. “People will support it. ... Everybody is so concerned about what the people think, yet look at the time, money, effort and risk of the Arcada closing. Start figuring out how the City Council will explain all of that.”
According to the minutes, Mayor Ray Rogina stated that he did not like the threatening mode of Onesti’s email and suggested that Onesti have a professional get quotes for the work.
Rogina also stated in the minutes that the project is of such magnitude, it would require a staff person to be entirely devoted to Arcada issues.
Koenen stated in the minutes that staff suggested putting up half the cost of repairing the air conditioning and have Onesti reimburse the city over a period of years through a seat tax – though nothing came of that proposal.
Though Koenen also had stated in the minutes that if the city had condemned the Arcada two years ago, the city would own it.
Koenen asked if officials were willing to call the building’s owner and make a deal, as the Arcada and Onesti are important to the city, the minutes state.
“The Arcada Theatre is really important to St. Charles,” Koenen states in the minutes. “How do we advance this proposal forward, or do we let it go dark?”
But now Koenen said he didn’t think the city is interested in owning the theater.
“We’re not buying the Arcada building – at least, not today,” Koenen said.