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Foundation awards Triumvirate Theatre $1 million to rebuild

Sabine Poux/KDLL

Triumvirate Theatre will receive one of the largest grants from the Rasmuson Foundation this award cycle. The Anchorage-based foundation is awarding the nonprofit $1 million to build a new theater in Kenai, after a fire razed its building in Nikiski earlier this year.

Triumvirate Executive Director Joe Rizzo said the grant will make a big dent in the estimated $4.7 million needed to rebuild. 

“When we got that number, we were like, ‘What?' — 4.7 million, it just seemed like an astronomical, unreachable goal," Rizzo said. "But in retrospect, now that I’ve been in this work for a while, I’ve realized it’s doable. We can make this happen.”

Triumvirate has been without a home since Feb. 20, when a fire burned down most of the building and the assets inside. Firefighters think the blaze originated from a two-story addition to the space that had been built just a year before.

Since then, Rizzo has been fundraising and applying for grants to build a new 120-seat theater. At the time the Rasmuson application was due, he had raised about $750,000 in cash and in-kind donations.

The City of Kenai also donated a parcel of land at the intersection of Daubenspeck Road and Marathon Road for Triumvirate's new building.

The Rasmuson grant, in turn, requires an additional $500,000 match.

The Rasmuson grant match can also be fulfilled with additional grants. Rizzo says the Rasmuson award could be a gateway to other funding opportunities.

"As soon as you are able to show that a major foundation like the Rasmuson Foundation believes enough in this project to commit a million dollars worth of funds, that speaks volumes to other foundations," Rizzo said.

Rizzo said the nonprofit is waiting for more of the financial pieces to fall into place before breaking ground on the new theater. The large cost to rebuild accounts for every last nail and board in the future building. It covers contingency funds, too.

“I would bet if I talked to my planner, who was hired by the Rasmuson Foundation to help us navigate through a gigantic project like this, which none of us have ever done, he would probably tell me, ‘Do not turn over one shovel of dirt until you have all the money in place to do that,'" he said.

Credit Courtesy of Joe Rizzo
A rendering shows the 120-seat theater Triumvirate plans to build in Kenai.

In the meantime, Triumvirate performers are finding theater space elsewhere — in Soldotna Creek Park for a summer production of "The Little Mermaid," at Kenai Catering for a variety show and, later this month, at Kenai Central High School for "The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe."

Triumvirate’s grant is part of a $15 million slate of awards from the Rasmuson Foundation, announced today.

The Kenai Peninsula Foundation won about $180,000 to purchase a Nikiski building for a new emergency homeless shelter.

The U.S. Forest Service, too, will get money for Kenai Peninsula projects. It’s building two public-use cabins in the Chugach National Forest, according to a Forest Service spokesperson: one near the Trail River Campground, slated for construction in Fiscal Year 2022, and one in the Portage Valley, to be built in Fiscal Year 2024.

Correction: Kenai's land donation does not count toward the match for the Rasmuson grant.

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