State awards Jayhawk Theatre $5 million in renovation grant

Revitalization plans for the historic Jayhawk Theatre have been in the works for decades.
Published: May. 11, 2023 at 10:19 PM CDT
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TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) - One of the industries most affected by COVID-19 is getting some much-needed help. Revitalization plans for the historic Jayhawk Theatre have been in the works for decades and now a $5 million grant from the state could finally put those efforts center stage.

The grants the governor’s office and commerce department announced Thursday, May 11th, come from pandemic “SPARK” funds, which support capital projects that spur regional economic development in the tourism industry,

“What the money will help us do is finish our architectural plans and really get started on some of the mechanical instruction. This building is 97 years old. It has almost nothing modern in it and so that’s a real hard thing for us to look at. Its a big mountain to climb because we have to put in sprinkling systems. We have to put in new electrical, new security cameras, new water and all of that has to get done so all that mechanical work needs to happen first,” says Board President, Jeff Carson.

Carson says that work will help the theatre build for the future.

“The biggest limitation we have right now is that we can only have 300 people in the theatre so part of our goal is to phase our construction if we can to allow us to increase that to like five, six, 700 people which gives us a lot more tickets that we can sell and we can bring in bigger and better acts,” says Carson.

Work is expected to begin next year and be completed in 2026.

The theatre is among 18 tourism sites awarded a total of $30 million dollars.

The money is going to state parks, museums, convention and visitor bureaus, performing arts centers and more.

“The theatre is going to add a very huge cultural advantage to Topeka. We’ll be able to compete better for tourism and for events and conferences and that sort of thing when we have more things like the Jayhawk Theatre to bring people in and show off our great city,” says Carson.

The governor says a thriving tourism sector is critical to the state’s economy.

Carson says he’s excited for the Jayhawk to rebuild its place as part of it.

“It’s going to change Topeka and Kansas and it’s going to be amazing,” says Carson.