Because its air conditioning units were recently destroyed by copper thieves, the Leeds Center for the Arts has had to relocate its summer events and stop the summer movies.
Jeff Phelps, vice president of the Leeds board, said someone stripped copper out of the building’s three rooftop air conditioning units. The incident happened about a month ago, but Phelps said the theater is waiting on the payment of an insurance claim to replace the units.
“I don’t know exactly how much (copper) was taken, but they probably got less than $10, and they did about $70,000 worth of damage,” Phelps said. “It’s nothing that you really like to do because the premiums go up, and if something like this were to happen again, we could be dropped.”
Scheduled events at the theater have been relocated to Winchester First Baptist Church, Phelps said, but the theater staff is hopeful the new units will be installed in time for the “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers” play set for Aug. 16-19.
Phelps said to his knowledge, no other incident like this has occurred at the Leeds.
At a recent meeting following the incident, Phelps said board members talked about how to prevent future incidents like this. Some solutions they came up with were to install cages around the units, hidden cameras and motion detectors.
“The only thing you can do about this is try and get the City Commission, the mayor and the police to be aware of the problem, and pass legislation to make it more difficult for people to sell copper,” Phelps said. “We’re going to be taking some additional security measures. We’ll be securing ladders on the roof. But it appears that they got to the roof not through the building but from other roofs.”
Aside from the issue of replacing the damaged air conditioning units, Phelps said there is a bigger picture to the overall maintenance of Leeds.
The last full renovation of the building was in 1989, and the lifespan of that renovation has run out, Phelps said. Renovation projects being considered include replacing the entire roof, installing an elevator, putting in upstairs bathrooms, and making the building energy efficient.
“There are examples all around the state of community theaters like this that have been converted to performing arts centers,” Phelps said. “It’d be nice to take (the current facility) one step further.”
The Leeds staff is exploring grant funding options to do the renovations, but realistically, Phelps said, it will be two years before the necessary funding can be secured.
The need for the renovations, Phelps said, was first brought to the attention of the Leeds staff by Clark County Judge-Executive Henry Branham and the Fiscal Court.
Branham said he first approached the Leeds staff about two years ago with the idea to expand the center’s programming.
“Maybe doing something for senior adults or school children,” Branham said. “It’s a cultural center, and if we could do that, we might be able to take advantage of some monies to be able to work with senior citizens and youth programs.”
Some programs Branham would like to see added to Leeds are educational workshops for high school students, and programs done in conjunction with Bluegrass Community and Technical College.
“There are a whole lot of opportunities out there for a cultural center. We just have to find them, recognize them and be able to take advantage of them,” Branham said.
For more information about Leeds, visit http://leedscenter.org/.
Contact Katie Perkowski at email@example.com.