The Historic Cavern Theatre Rehabilitation Project is a community effort to rehabilitate one of Carlsbad’s most beloved downtown buildings. The City of Carlsbad and numerous volunteers are working closely together on this remarkable project.
A Lasting Legacy
The Cavern Theatre was built in 1951 in downtown Carlsbad at 210 North Canyon Street, just one block north of the Eddy County courthouse square and in the heart of the downtown commercial district. It was constructed at the height of the post-World War II baby boom as the premier movie theatre in the city of Carlsbad. Architects designed the theatre in the International Style, a form of modernism that featured minimal ornamentation and streamlined forms. Features such as generous auditorium size, a multi-colored neon marquee, a large balcony and painted murals of local landmarks made it a beautiful feature of Carlsbad’s downtown. The theatre stopped showing movies in the 1990s.
It has been occasionally used for musical performances and other events over the past few decades, but has largely been vacant.
Our Restoration Project
In February 2014, members of Carlsbad’s Light and Rogers families generously donated the theater to the City of Carlsbad. Many Carlsbad residents fondly recall the Theatre as the place where they saw their first movie or even where they went on their first date, and there is substantial interest in restoring the building. The City of Carlsbad, members of the Light and Rogers families, and members of the local arts community all support the idea of turning the historic building into a multi-purpose performing arts center.
Carlsbad Mayor Dale Janway has appointed a task force, with the ultimate goal of turning the theatre into an arts center. The stage will be used by visiting performers, local musicians and community theatre troops, while classroom space can be devoted to art classes and other activities. There’s a lot of work to be done, but volunteers have already begun to review design plans and explore funding possibilities.
Retired Living Desert Zoo & Gardens State Park Superintendent Ken Britt is the chair of the Cavern Theatre Committee Members are: Elaine Mead, Janell Whitlock, Karla Hamel, Mike Cleary, Patsy Jackson-Christopher, Ron Hyden, Stella Davis, Stephanie Shumsky, Susan Campbell, Truth LaClair, Wayne Roberts, Ned Elkins, Kristina Hillmer and Wren Stroud.
Our mission is to “explore funding sources to rehabilitate the Cavern Theatre as a performing arts center to complement the Carlsbad MainStreet District, the Carlsbad Historic District and the Carlsbad Arts & Cultural District. The Committee will act in an advisory capacity in developing theatre design, in considering planned use, and in recommending historic rehabilitation guidelines, as well as making recommendations on a management business plan.”
“The Cavern Theatre will serve as a multi-service community-oriented performing arts center with state-of-the-art sound and technical capabilities to enhance the quality of life and provide economic revitalization of the downtown area in a mid-size venue.”
Visit this space for more updates and to learn more ways you can help with this exciting community effort! The project architect, Durham Mackay Architects, will also be providing regular updates on the rehabilitation effort. Check it out at www.durhamarchitectsnm.com.
The members of the Cavern Theatre Committee would like to offer their condolences to the light and Rogers families for the loss of philanthropist and legislator Bob light. Mr. light passed away on Tuesday, Oct. 26,2015. He was an exceptional supporter of our restoration effort and to this community in so many ways. You will be missed dearly and thank you so much for everything you did.
The Fireballs Score a Direct Hit!
George Tomsco of the Fireballs and the Johnny Mulhair backup band performed in Carlsbad in November as part of a benefit concert and dinner to raise funds to complete the Cavern Theatre rehabilitation project. Natives of Raton, New Mexico, The Fireballs can be recognized from hits such as "Sugar Shack" and "Bottle of Wine." The benefit concert not only raised funds for the Cavern Theatre rehabilitation project, but was also a part of the New Mexico Association of Museums Conference.
Expect many more great fundraiser efforts in support of the Cavern Theatre rehabilitation project throughout 2016!
Cavern Theatre Project Update
The asbestos abatement is complete. City crews have removed the old carpet exposing the original chevron-pattern mosaic tile in the lobby. They are in the process of a general cleanup. City electricians have inspected existing wiring and the decision has been made to totally rewire the building and bring the electrical system up to modern code during Phase 1. Durham Mackay Architects are nearing completion of the plans, which include a Phase 1 and 2 installation of basic infrastructure that will allow the building to be occupied prior to the total rehabilitation. This will permit limited programming to begin to give the public access, enabling you to envision the desired result of a fully functional performing arts center.
A demand fund has been initiated at the Carlsbad Community Foundation to accept tax-deductible donations to help Carlsbad realize the dream. For a complete update, visit http://www.durhamarchitectsnm.com/Go to www.carlsbadfoundation.org and click on the donate button at the top of that page. Designate your gift for the Cavern Theatre renovation.