Tivoli Foundation director Nick Wilkinson is envisioning capacity crowds at the Tivoli Theatre and Memorial Auditorium as early as this fall.
He said, "With more people getting vaccinated and the COVID numbers going down, we are planning big. We expect to be wide open by late summer or fall."
Tickets have already gone on sale for the Allman Band on Oct. 1 at the Walker Theater of Memorial Auditorium. Mr. Wilkinson said he expects every one of the 800 seats to be filled.
He said, "People are so tired of being cooped up. We all can't wait for this to be behind us."
Mr. Wilkinson said other venues are on the same schedule, beginning to book shows right and left. He said, "It feels like old times. We are already out there putting in offers."
Right now, with some facility rentals and classic movie showings taking place, a wide range of safety precautions are in place at the two city-owned facilities that are leased to the non-profit.
Mr. Wilkinson said the Tivoli has 1,700 seats, but now only about 500 are available due to spacing of seating. There are mask requirements, temperature checks, a health and safety officer on duty, plexi glass at the concession area, special aisles for entering and exiting, hand sanitation dispensers and other safety precautions.
But he sees things opening up soon. He said, "At first we were all scared to death. Now we've learned a lot in over a year."
The Tivoli Foundation got down to only around $35,000 on hand after burning through well over $2 million in reserves as the facilities went dark. He said the foundation lost in excess of $10 million in revenue when shows were cancelled beginning in March 2020.
He said the city of Chattanooga provided a needed cash infusion in January, and he said a recovery fund that was set up last August "has been a huge help." The Bobby Stone Foundation is now offering to match donations to the fund dollar for dollar up to $200,000. Mr. Wilkinson said he expects the full $200,000 will be matched.
The biggest opportunity for recouping losses lies with the Shuttered Venues Operations Grants (SVOG) administered by the federal Small Business Administration. Mr. Wilkinson said his staff has been hard at work applying for the grant, while compiling a host of statistics and data.
He said, "The applications became open at noon on Monday. Ours was in by 1:30. If we weren't the first, we were one of the first."
Mr. Wilkinson said the foundation could potentially receive over $5 million from the SVOG program.
He said the recipients may be known in about two weeks.