The Orpheum is in a bit of a bind.
For about a month or so, a team of “the very best people” kept the historic theater’s 30-plus-year-old air-conditioning system on life support. Then on Friday, the AC – which had been on the fritz – permanently broke down, said Diana Gordon, president of the Wichita Orpheum Theatre.
“We were trying for a month, working on it diligently daily,” Gordon said. “We were taking every step possible to keep it going, then last Friday it failed completely. There’s no resurrecting it.”
Earlier this week, the theater installed a temporary air-conditioning system that will allow it to remain open this summer; however, it needs to raise money quickly to purchase a new system, Gordon said.
“This is an industrial unit that has to be either custom-built or a big industrial unit that has to then be custom-modified for the typing and wiring and tubing of your building,” Gordon said. “This isn’t a buy-off-the-shelf system.”
The theater has about $45,000 in a reserve fund for emergency repairs, but Gordon estimates a new system will cost “a little over $100,000.”
And until that money is raised, the theater is paying $12,000 a month for the temporary system to keep the theater cool.
“This is a very expensive venture and we will need to raise money,” Gordon said. “As soon as (the Orpheum’s Celebrity & Chef Cookoff) is over on Tuesday, I will do nothing but raise the rest of the money.
“This is an elephant, and I’m eating it a bite at a time.”
Gordon said the Orpheum needs monetary donations – it’s not interested in people offering custom air-conditioning services.
“The only help anybody can do right now is send us a check,” Gordon said. “In the meantime, we are fully operational. The Orpheum is cool.”
Donations may be made online at www.wichitaorpheum.com, under the “Donate” tab, or checks made out to “The Orpheum Performing Arts Center Ltd.” at The Orpheum Theatre, 200 N. Broadway, Suite 330. Wichita, KS 67202. Donations are tax-deductible. For more information, call 316-263-0884.