Jim Hoffman, who led the Paramount Theatre’s $7.8 million renovation in 2002-03, answered the call for an even more monumental undertaking, leading Paramount Constituents Committee after the Floods of 2008. This volunteer group of citizen experts would seek advice and make renovation decisions on behalf of the city.
Why would the retired Alliant Energy executive take on such a task, knowing he’d be working hundreds of hours at no pay?
“After my 150th historic federal tax credit conference call, my wife asked me the same question,” Hoffman said. “This is a labor of love. There’s no question about it.
“This theater — I am just so excited to have the people of Cedar Rapids and the surrounding area have this incredible amenity available again, because it is so much better than it was before. But it ought to be. We’re spending a lot of money to bring this thing back, and doing it right,” he said.
“What I’m so thrilled about, is that when I was asked to do this by the (city) council, they said we have one chance to do this right, so let’s do it right. And boy, did we. That’s what has kept me excited and motivated.”
DEE BAIRD, president and CEO, Cedar Rapids Metro Economic Alliance
“It’s pretty symbolic in my mind how tenacious community members and leaders and city leaders can be, when you think about the fact that the (renovation) has been done so well, and it’s been done twice in less than 10 years.”
TAMMY KOOLBECK, vice president, VenuWorks for Cedar Rapids
“This is a fixture in downtown and always has been. (The Paramount) really anchors the middle of downtown, especially as we’re looking at stretching from the U.S. Cellular Center down to New Bo ….”
“For us, it’s all operational. The toilets all flush, the water fountains work, the house lights go down when they’re supposed to and come up when they’re supposed to, the sound system works, the ticket printer spits out the tickets when it’s supposed to and scan … just waiting to see how the building works.
“The nice thing is, we are opening a new building, with all of the new bells and whistles we have, but in essence, it’s our old building … with some new spaces to work around, too.”
JASON ANDERSON, Paramount general manager
“I’m ready to get people in here, start filling the seats, start really going through the process of having patrons in the building just enjoying themselves.
ROBERT MASSEY, CEO, Orchestra Iowa
“It really is about the patron experience because you could listen to music, you could listen to a symphony on the radio. Why attend live concerts? It’s that shared experience that transports you to a level you can’t get anywhere else.
“I liken it to going to a Hawkeye game. You could see it on TV, in the comfort of your home, with your refrigerator at your disposal. Why get up, fight parking, fight the crowds, stand out in the 20-degree sleet? Because when you’re with other people, when you’re sharing that experience, it adds value.
“So I think the Paramount is a great center for our community.”
BRADD BROWN, partner, OPN Architects
“Historically we don’t want it to look dramatically different. I hope that when (audiences) walk out of there, they say, ‘Wow, my knees don’t hurt’ and ‘That sounded far better than I remember it sounding.’ And for people that have never been there before, I hope they just think it’s a great-sounding auditorium.”