MOBILE, Ala. (WPMI) Mobile City Council members voted unanimously Tuesday morning to take control of the Saenger Theatre.
The Center of Living Arts owned the theatre for years, and decided to turn it over to the city of Mobile to save money and focus more on other projects on their agenda.
Mayor Sam Jones said the city is looking for an outside company to run the theatre so it has acts to fill the seats, and still look beautiful on the outside. Chief of Staff Al Stokes spoke on behalf of Mayor Jones Tuesday. He said the Saenger is vital to keeping arts in the community.
"While it's important to the vitality of downtown, it's important to the vitality of the arts. But it's also important to the vitality of our economic strategy," Stokes said.
The city will send out bids sometime this summer to find a company to take over. The city is hoping to find the right fit by this summer. But officials aren't just looking for anyone; they want an experienced company to take over, one who can relate to promoters and get involved.
"The basic thing we're looking for is a management firm that has experience in managing this kind of performing arts facilities," said Stokes.
It's going to take more than just new management and tax dollars to keep the Saenger alive.
"We need attendance. We need attendance that is only going to be realized if we have true partners," said council member John C. Williams.
Williams told Local 15 News that he wants a company that will promote the theater and get the public involved. Something else the city is hoping to do is attract international companies. Stokes said in a meeting with Thyssen Krupp, the company wanted to know how the Port City handles the arts.
"Those companies look to go into places that have those kind of cultural amenities that at least match what they're used to where they come from," said Stokes.
The Mobile Symphony Orchestra said it's committed to reviving the Saenger. City council members say they just need downtown Mobile commitment, and commitment from the Centers for Living Arts.