The saga of the West Bend Theater is entering its gasping final stages. From the Washington County Insider:
The theatre is a hot topic. It marked its 87th anniversary on November 26.
Since about 2007 the theatre has gone dark. There have been some recent rumblings about a possible sale or even razing the building for an outdoor amphitheater. None of the rumors have been confirmed by building owner Matt Prescott.
What has been confirmed is a December deadline regarding the renovation or removal of the bridge behind the theatre. The downtown West Bend Business Improvement District put forth a $75,000 surety to save the pedestrian bridge that extends from the back of the West Bend Theatre over the Milwaukee River.
That deadline, now a year later, is just a couple weeks away.
During Sunday’s West Bend Christmas Parade an attempt was made by historian Terry Becker to rally some support for the future of the theatre by having people gather below the West Bend marquee for a photo.
About 30 people drifted over to the theatre but came away disappointed.
“It’s just disorganized,” said Bartelt. “People are looking at information. I asked if they were going to do the community picture and nobody answered me.”
The West Bend Theater and its iconic sign has been a centerpiece of downtown West Bend for generations, but its time is over. The problem is that there just isn’t enough interest in doing anything with it. There are a handful of people who are actively involved in trying to restore it, but they lack the funds (or are unwilling to spend their own funds) to do it. The rest of the community is about like me, I suppose. I would like to see something done with it, but it isn’t important enough for me to invest much of my own time or money in doing so. It would be “neat,” but I have other priorities.
The theater has been empty for almost a decade. The flurry of activity last year to save it has fizzled out like the previous attempts to save it. It’s time to admit that West Bend has moved on and let it die.