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Council OKs Palace Theatre's donor banner

The Common Council voted informally this week to allow the Palace Theatre to hang an 18-by-37-foot vinyl banner on its Elm Street side.

The sign will carry the logos of companies that have contributed to the theater. Formal approval of the special-use permit will come at a future meeting.

The Planning Board had recommended against the permit because the sign is far larger than the city sign ordinance allows, but only Alderman Joseph C. Kibler, R-at-large, said he was against having the sign as large as the theater wants.

He suggested a smaller sign, but Ellen Schratz, president of the nonprofit theater, said it would get lost on the huge blank wall.

"To me it shows the Palace is vibrant and alive, and so is Lockport," Schratz said.

Others supported the idea. "It's on a side street," Corporation Counsel John J. Ottaviano said. "It's covering an ugly wall."

"Sometimes we have to go out of our way," said Alderwoman Phyllis J. Green, R-2nd Ward. "[The theater] does a great service to the City of Lockport."

"The Planning Board did what they had to do," said Mayor Michael W. Tucker. "No way they could approve that." But the city's laws allow the Council to grant special user permits a year at a time whether the Planning Board approves or not. The Council also will waive the $100 annual fee.

Schratz said Shea's Performing Arts Center in Buffalo and the Riviera Theatre in North Tonawanda have similar exterior signs. She said it would be attached firmly to the wall with a large number of grommets, preventing the sign from flapping in the breeze, and the designer, Micro Graphics, would use fade-resistant ink.

Schratz estimated that $40,000 can be raised with such a sign, which would be changed annually. She said last year's sponsor drive brought in only $20,000, and the theater is trying to maximize revenue to buy a new heating and air conditioning unit.

The Palace will offer five levels of sponsorships, ranging from the $500 "opal" level to the $10,000 "diamond" level. All sponsors' names will be listed on the banner, in varying sizes depending on their contributions.

e-mail: tprohaska@buffnews.com

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