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Investment in historic theater winning over Wyoming skeptics

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Eric Galatas

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(Wyoming New Service) May 21, the town of Sinclair is hosting a free screening of the Wyoming PBS documentary "100 Years on the Lincoln Highway" at the newly restored Parco/Sinclair Theatre - as part of Historic Preservation Month.

Monte Thayer - community events director for the town of Sinclair and the theater's manager - said the original Lincoln Highway runs directly in front of the cozy, old-style theater that most people in their thirties or younger have never seen.

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"Everybody that comes here - whether they are performers or just attendees of an event - they just fall in love with the theater, and the old little ticket booth inside," said Thayer. "People just fall in love with it."

The theater was built in 1924, when the town was named Parco for the oil company running the nearby refinery.

The town's name changed after the Sinclair Consolidated Oil Corporation took over operations in the early 1940s.

The theater matches the Spanish Colonial Architecture style of the other original public buildings in town, and the interior renovation was completed in 2021.

Former Sinclair mayor Leif Johansson said the old boiler in the basement had to be removed because it was full of asbestos.

Workers chipped out the original concrete floor to make the space compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

The original seats, which were too narrow for today's audiences, were replaced with larger seats.

"Before it didn't have a balcony," said Johansson. "We put in a balcony, and we put in a concession area, and larger bathrooms for people. It took a little over a year to refurnish it and get it going again."

Thayer said funds are still being raised to complete the exterior restoration. He said feedback from town residents on the decision to invest upwards of $2 million has been positive.

"They just talked about how it's improved the quality of life," said Thayer. "And this is coming from people that initially weren't in favor of the renovation, but now say that was the best idea this town could have done with that place, and it's just been a godsend."