Missed Opportunity for Performing Arts Center

Macomb, IL – Western Illinois University has a chance to build its new Performing Arts Center in a prime location but it looks like the university won't take advantage of the opportunity.

Western owns the land at Route 67 and University Drive. It's right at the entryway to the community and to the campus. It's easily accessible for visitors and provides ample parking.

The site was not originally considered for the PAC because two businesses -- Godfather's Pizza and Carmike Cinemas I & II -- were located there. But both have since closed. Neither building has been used since 2009.

Nonetheless, WIU President Jack Thomas said the university wants to create a cultural corridor on the other side of campus by building the PAC near Browne Hall and the COFAC Recital Hall.

"The location we have now has been identified for a number of years now and we're prepared to moved forward in that location," Thomas said.

He hopes construction of the PAC will begin next year, perhaps around the conclusion of the spring semester. The state's 2009 Capital Bill includes $67.8 million for building the PAC.

Thomas said the former movie theater building will be renovated into a Welcome Center.

"It will be a one-stop shop for financial aid, admission, and other student services offices that will be located there," Thomas said.

As for the Godfather's building, the WIU Board of Trustees voted last week to decommission it. The building will ultimately be demolished.

Thomas also said WIU plans to beautify the site at Route 67 and University Drive with additional landscaping.

"We do want to have a grand entrance that says 'Welcome to Western Illinois University,'" Thomas said.

Which is what WIU would have if it built the PAC there.