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The front marquee of the Lincoln Theater is seen Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2019, on Central Avenue in downtown Cheyenne. Both former screening rooms inside the former movie theater are being converted into one main hall with a 25-foot stage to be able to host a wider variety of entertainment. Michael Cummo/Wyoming Tribune Eagle

CHEYENNE – “The Lincoln” needs your help.

Jon and Renee Jelinek, who purchased the Lincoln Theater last year through their nonprofit organization, the Alternative Arts Project, have launched an initial crowdfunding campaign to renovate the facility.

The plan is to revitalize the historic theater, built in the 1930s, now simply called “The Lincoln,” into a live entertainment music venue.

Renee Jelinek said the group is seeking donations to fund the initial construction phase of the project, in which they will be removing walls that were built in the balcony and on the stage. They hope to raise $60,000 for that initial effort.

“We’re needing support from people by way of donations,” she said. “We do have multiple forms of raising funds that we are working on, and the crowdfunding is one of those. It’s open to anyone to donate any amount. If it’s $10, that’s awesome.”

The theater was long considered a premier Front Range venue, as well as a center of Cheyenne nightlife. It was one of the first to feature air conditioning, a fireproof foundation and hearing assistance technology in the region.

Under its previous name, Lincoln $ Saver, the theater offered movies weeks to months after their premiere at substantially discounted prices. It closed as a movie venue last year.

The Lincoln was originally designed as a music venue with one large space, Jelinek said.

“In the ‘90s, they converted it to host two movie theaters,” she said. “When they did that, they built a wall up in the balcony and added another wall on the stage. It makes the stage really small. Those two walls have to come out.”

Jelinek said plans also call for opening up the projection room and converting that space into a bar area.

After the initial demolition phase, Jelinek said plans include upgrading restrooms, constructing the bar area and creating a tiered seating area. Plans also call for a standing-room dancing area near the front of the stage.

She said the venue will host about 1,200 to 1,400 people at a time.

“There isn’t anything like this in Cheyenne,” she said. “It has the potential to do a lot for downtown Cheyenne.”

The Alternative Arts Project was created in 2011 with youth in the community in mind, giving them access to music and arts education and experience, regardless of their circumstances. As part of that project, a program was launched in 2012 offering free after-school guitar lessons for all junior high and high school students.

Jelinek said every show will have a designated number of tickets that will be given free to the youth in the community through the nonprofit organization.

“(The Alternative Arts Project) has been on hiatus for the last couple of years as we’ve been busy with other projects, but we always knew we would come back to it in some way,” she said. “This opportunity came up for the Lincoln, and we thought this would be a chance to come back in a bigger way and help to impact more people in Cheyenne.”

In an effort to remain true to the nonprofit’s original goal, Jelinek said they want to ensure that Cheyenne teens are exposed to different acts and open their eyes to more than what is currently offered in Cheyenne.

The beneficiaries of this project, she said, will be the entire community of Cheyenne, when residents have access to national touring acts that wouldn’t otherwise be playing the area outside of Denver, as well as hosting local and regional artists.

The couple’s business ventures include the Majestic Building and the Paramount Cafe. But Jelinek said they will not profit from this project.

“We are acting completely as volunteers, and putting our own time and money into making sure that this happens,” she said. “This is something that the majority of people have responded really well to. People see that this will be a positive change for Cheyenne.”

Jelinek said she didn’t want to release any kind of timetable for completion of the work – at least not yet.

“We’re still waiting on a few final details to get a timeline for the final phase of construction, but it will be soon,” she said. “It’s not going to be a three years down the road type thing, but soon. We need to get open as quickly as possible.”

Steve Knight is the Wyoming Tribune Eagle’s local government reporter. He can be reached at 307-633-3182 or sknight@wyomingnews.com.

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