ELLSWORTH — Oct. 17 will be a milestone date for The Grand.
On that date, a Friday, locally produced musical theater will return to the stage after a seven-year absence with “Monty Python’s Spamalot.”
That also will be the inaugural performance on the Stanley Subaru Stage at The Grand, a name that will remain in place for the next 10 years in recognition of for financial support to the theater from the auto dealership.
“I think it’s a big deal and a good deal for both of us,” said Mark Politte, owner of Stanley Subaru.
Theater officials agreed that the gift is both big and good. The contribution from Stanley Subaru, which will be made over 10 years, is the lead gift in a $1.5-million capital campaign called The Campaign for The Grand.
The goals of the campaign are to upgrade the building, pay off the mortgage, create an endowment and bolster and broaden program support.
“It’s amazing, absolutely amazing,” said Terri Sargent Smith, chairman of The Grand’s board of trustees. “It’s a wonderful step forward for us, and it will be a great partnership.”
Grand and Stanley Subaru officials declined to disclose details of the financial support, but a promotional brochure from The Grand for the campaign lists the naming opportunity for the stage at $100,000.
Other naming opportunities listed in the brochure include The Grand’s lobby ($75,000), projection booth ($20,000) and concession stand ($5,000). Individual seats in the theater can be named for $500 each.
Gail Thompson, executive director of The Grand, said the money from Stanley Subaru has not been earmarked for any particular project. She said this and other early gifts in the campaign, however, are likely to go toward building repairs and improvements.
That work ranges from installing a digital projection system and screen to lighting and sound upgrades. Insulation and new heat exchangers should make the building more efficient, she said, helping to reduce oil bills (which totaled $30,000 last year).
The “Stanley Subaru Stage at The Grand” name will be used on promotional materials produced for Grand-produced or sponsored productions, such as “Spamalot” or the Robinson Ballet. Outside groups or performers that rent the space will be advised of the naming arrangement.
In the theater itself, a plaque will be installed near the stage with the name. A custom light that will beam the Stanley Subaru logo onto the curtain before shows is on order, and the company will be featured in a pre-performance slide show.
Thompson and Smith both said they hope this lead gift from Stanley Subaru will inspire other businesses to support The Grand.
“It’s a wonderful way to support the heartbeat of Ellsworth,” said Smith, noting that about 30,000 people came to the theater last year. “We are the cultural center of Hancock County.”
Thompson said the theater is “a real economic engine for Main Street,” noting that sold-out shows bring 500 people to the city’s downtown — people who want a place to eat, or a place to shop for art or gifts.
Politte said as a businessman, he looks for ways to support nonprofits and be philanthropic as well as ways to advertise. The chance to secure naming rights for The Grand’s stage, he said, combined all three things. Plus, it puts the business’s name in front of people who Politte wants to see it.
“The people they’re providing a service to and who we see as a customer are the same group,” he said. “This felt like a really good fit.”
Politte described The Grand as “an anchor in downtown Ellsworth” and said it has served as “a cultural icon for decades.” He said as a local businessman, he wants to see other businesses in Ellsworth — particularly those in the downtown — do well.
Politte said the financial support that will be coming from his business to The Grand is the “biggest commitment we’ve made to any particular organization.” Thompson said having corporate support of this size is a first for the theater, as well.
Thompson said The Grand approached Stanley Subaru about the naming opportunity, and that the two parties worked out the terms of the gift over the summer. Politte said the 10-year time frame speaks to the commitment that his business is making to The Grand.