Clyde opens doors, eyes
By Rosa Salter Rodriguez | The Journal Gazette
Christopher Guerin remembers the last time he saw a movie at Fort Wayne’s Clyde Theatre. He went alone – he and his wife had just had a baby, and he needed to get out of the house.
The movie was “Colors,” a 1988 cop drama starring Sean Penn, and the Fort Wayne man remembers it wasn’t great. But mostly, he remembers how terrible the sound system was – it had been deteriorating for years, he said, but this was the last straw.
“I couldn’t understand a word,” he said. “I never went back.”
But, there he was Tuesday, standing among assembled dignitaries in the theater’s lobby as the newly refurbished Clyde dazzled onlookers as a jazz trio sparkled through a goosebump-inducing sound system described as on the cutting edge.
About a dozen of those dignitaries including Sweetwater Sound founder Chuck Surack – a major contributor and supporter of what turned out to be the $9 million restoration – had just ceremonially cut a ribbon announcing the official reopening of the Clyde as a new city music venue.
Plans are to entice an eclectic mix of national touring acts, such as the Flaming Lips on Aug. 16; B.B. King’s Blues Band with Tito Jackson on July 28; the Super Diamond Neil Diamond Tribute Band on Aug. 30; and Mastodon and Dinosaur Jr. on Sept. 14.
And that’s just part of the schedule released Tuesday.
“This is probably the biggest day in my life,” said Rick Kinney, who spearheaded the restoration of the A.M. Strauss-designed building as president of Even Keel Productions and now is the theater’s general manager.
The restoration, Kinney said, tried to maintain art deco features brought into existence by Strauss, a famed Fort Wayne 20th-century architect who also designed Embassy Theatre, Lincoln Tower and Memorial Coliseum.
The theater opened in 1951 with more than 1,700 seats then was cut in two as movie attendance waned.
Much of the detail was stripped from the building in subsequent years. But a redone dome still towers above the spacious 10,400-squarefoot lobby, which now has a sleek curved bar and glass block accents. And the front of the theater again sports a 60-foot vertical pylon “Clyde” sign.
The performance hall, at 21,000 square feet, is now designed without permanent seating to serve multiple functions – a standing-room concert for more than 2,100, a concert with seating for 830 or a reception hall or event center for private parties.
A second bar in the performance space is accompanied by a wide railing that can hold the drinks of concert-goers, while the second-floor balcony has VIP suites, a public gathering area with cushy black leather, overstuffed couch and chair seating and room for art exhibits.
The renovation also includes a box office and a 7,000-square-foot dressing room and hospitality suite for performers.
A stage extension and backstage loading docks have been added as has a modern sound and light system and acoustical plaster.
The theater had a soft opening Sunday, and the first show will be at 7 p.m. Saturday with the Used, Red Sun Rising and the Fever 333.
Kinney also had a story about the Clyde in its lesser days – around the time he bought it for $500 at a 2012 tax sale.
The theater was closed in the early 1990s.
“The entire parking lot was craters. Like craters the size of craters on the moon,” he said, surveying about six acres of new asphalt hoped to not only to serve theater patrons but attract new tenants to the Quimby Village shopping center.
The project was supported with a $1 million loan from the Fort Wayne Legacy Fund, a $1 million Regional Cities grant from the Northeast Indiana Regional Development Authority and a $40,000 facade grant from the city. The balance was funded by Surack and his wife, Lisa.
Other speakers at the ribbon cutting were Surack, Legacy Fund President Ron Turpin, Regional Development Authority board member Gene Donaghy and City Councilman Geoff Paddock, D-5th.
“Really the ambiance of this theater is like no other,” Mayor Tom Henry said before the ribbon cutting. “This is a transformation into something truly remarkable.
“We’ve talked about bringing new life into the south side of Fort Wayne, and this is what it’s going to take,” Henry said. “This is what it’s going to take to make Fort Wayne a true city of destination.”
Upcoming events at The Clyde:
May 16: Stone Sour with the Bronx, ’68
May 19: Granger Smith with Jacob Powell, Smithfield
May 26: Anthrax and Testament
May 29: An Evening With Ghost
June 2: Saved by the 90’s with DJ MSG1
June 5: The Front Bottoms with An Horse
June 8: War
June 12: Fitz and the Tantrums with Mikky Ekko
June 14: Asleep at the Wheel
June 15: Badfish: A Tribute to Sublime with Unlikely Alibi, Flamingo Nosebleed
June 16: Chase Rice with Ross Ellis
June 20: Al Di Meola
June 23: ZoSo – The Ultimate Led Zeppelin Experience
June 27: The Wailers
July 12: George Clinton & Parliament Funkadelic
July 25: Black Label Society with Corrosion of Conformity, EHG
July 28: B.B. King’s Blues Band featuring Tito Jackson
Aug. 4: Who’s Bad – The Ultimate Michael Jackson Experience
Aug. 11: Jonny Lang
Aug. 16: The Flaming Lips
Aug. 30: Super Diamond: The Neil Diamond Tribute
Sept. 14: Mastodon with Dinosaur Jr.
Sept.15: Anderson East
New events are being added weekly. More information and tickets are available at The Clyde's website or by calling (260) 747-0989.