Group in Prosser seeks funds to buy Princess Theatre

PROSSER -- The Valley Theater Company announced Wednesday that it plans to raise $125,000 toward its goal of buying the historic Princess Theatre in downtown Prosser.

The theater company has raised $75,000 so far. With the $125,000, that's just half of the $400,000 needed to buy the historic building.

The company hopes to raise the other half through other donations, as well as ticket sales and rental fees for plays, movies, ballet recitals, jazz festivals, graduation ceremonies, community meetings and concerts.

"The Valley Theater Company formed in 1961, making this year our golden anniversary," said Candace Andrews, a theater company member. "And we now have a golden opportunity to purchase the Princess Theatre."

At Wednesday's ceremony, Prosser Mayor Paul Warden said the theater provided an important quality of life for Prosser and the Yakima Valley.

Alisa Groenen, manager of the Historic Downtown Prosser Association, spoke about how fortunate Prosser is to have a historic theater still standing.

And Jim Milne, executive director of the Prosser Chamber, talked about how important the theater is to the children of Prosser and that it could spark a lifelong pursuit in theater arts.

"Our successes here have allowed us to raise $75,000 toward the purchase of the theater," Andrews said. "We hope to sponsor a drama competition for smaller high schools and to host film festivals. The possibilities are endless.

"We are excited to unveil this phase of our capital campaign, Be a Star -- Invest in the Arts. VTC is working very hard to provide a variety of arts in our community and will continue to provide a cultural center for the Yakima Valley."

The Princess Theatre opened in 1920 and much of it was destroyed by fire in 1946. It stayed in ruins until the 1990s when a group of townspeople began renovations but never finished.

"About five years ago (the Bud Mercer family) bought the building and renovated this landmark into the jewel it is today," Andrews said.

The Valley Theater Company began performing its plays at the theater in 2007 and were invited to manage the theater in 2009.

"We jumped at the opportunity," she said. "Many cherish this landmark and their memories of it. Others recognize the impact this theater has when children first see a live performance. Still others volunteer their time to this historic facility and its variety of cultural events.

Anyone interested in donating can call 509-786-2180 or go to theprincesstheatre.net.