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Maryland Theatre is for sale

September 02, 2005|By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

HAGERSTOWN

By ERIN CUNNINGHAM

erinc@herald-mail.com

The Maryland Theatre in Hagerstown is for sale and could have a new owner in 30 days.

Executive Director Patricia Wolford said a company with local ties made an offer on the property, and the board of directors is welcoming other bids. The board will entertain all offers before Oct. 1.

Wolford would not say who offered to purchase the theater, which has been operating on South Potomac Street for about 90 years. She also declined to reveal how much the company offered to pay to own and operate the theater, currently owned by The Maryland Theatre Association.

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Wolford said the company approached her with the offer, and she took it to the 11-member board of directors which oversees the theater.

"The group represents a lot of expertise that will be a great benefit to the theater," she said.

The company has said they want to put at least $1 million into the building and are concerned with preserving the historical structure, she said. The board has also been told the company hopes to bring in additional performers, while upholding all existing contracts.

Maryland Theatre regulars like The Maryland Symphony Orchestra and the Miss Maryland pageant will remain, Wolford said.

She described the company as a "well-funded group" and said it would be able to finance a larger lineup of performances and badly needed repairs to the building.

"They have a lot of interest in the downtown area, seeing it developed and producing the type of things that people will want to come to Hagerstown for," Wolford said of the company. "We would hope they would be able to bring in additional performances."

With the theater operating "in the black" for seven of the past 10 years, Wolford said the offer was a very positive thing for the theater and the community. She said the only money the theater receives comes from the City of Hagerstown ? $5,000.

"If you have $400,000 to $500,000 of cash every year, you can certainly do more than you can with $5,000," she said.

If the company does purchase the theater, the board of directors will remain intact for at least the first five years of ownership, Wolford said. There will most likely be other stipulations as part of the sale, like a minimum number of performances each year and contingencies for any surplus funds at the end of each year, Wolford said.

She said this was the first time the board has been approached with an offer to purchase and operate the theater in her 11 years on the board.

"We may have a very positive thing here happening," Wolford said. "Downtown is definitely changing and this is one thing that will add another plus to it. People are interested in making investments like this and it's positive for the entire community."

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