This article first appeared in the Lovington Leader.
Last week, T-Mobile presented Lovington MainStreet a $50,000 check to aid in the renovation and refurbishment of the historic Lea Theatre. The check presentation was part of a celebration of sorts with hors d’oeuvres and local band Slick Lamb playing music in the Fran Atchley Park. MainStreet Executive Director, Mara Salcido explained plans to completely renovate and restore the historic Lea Theatre and transform it into a vibrant community entertainment venue, breathing fresh life into the cultural landscape of Lovington.
The theatre, which has been closed since 2020, found itself shuttered due to the challenges posed by a rapidly evolving and highly competitive market, as well as the deteriorating condition of its building. The revival of the Lea Theatre calls for innovative thinking, strategic partnerships, and a spirit of collaboration.
Earlier this year, Lovington MainStreet took a significant step forward by submitting an Opportunity Grant application to the JF Maddox Foundation, coupled with a memorandum of understanding request to the City of Lovington. The JF Maddox Foundation committed $330,000 to fund capital improvements and operating support. MainStret also secured $300,000 for the restoration of its historic marquee from state and county capital outlay funds.
Pro-Tem Mayor David Trujillo voiced the community’s shared aspirations, saying, “We all share one common goal: enhancing our community. We want to ensure that Lovington becomes not just a place to live and work but a place to play as well. Collaborating to reopen the Lea Theatre was a no-brainer. We are excited to partner with Lovington MainStreet and the JF Maddox Foundation to provide another quality-of life service for our citizens.”
The Lea Theatre Lights On project encompasses a comprehensive overhaul that includes crucial infrastructure upgrades such as electrical, plumbing, HVAC, roofing, asbestos and hazardous waste removal, and interior updates designed to enhance the overall customer experience. Recognized as both a state and nationally registered historic building, preserving its historical significance is deemed paramount. Lovington MainStreet is working in close collaboration with the NM Historic Preservation Department to ensure that all guidelines and preservation standards are meticulously met. Also, Lovington MainStreet has developed a comprehensive business plan to manage the theater’s operations efficiently.
Securing the necessary funding for the project has been a critical milestone for Lovington MainStreet. Executive director Mara Salcido, who has been at the forefront of these efforts, remarked, “I’ve been tirelessly writing and applying for grants. The Lea Theatre was the first project I worked on when I started as an assistant in 2015, so ‘no’ has never been an option. I cannot express how grateful I am that these funders recognize the immense value in investing in historic buildings and small communities.”
City of Lovington Mayor Robbie Roberts expressed gratitude, saying, “The City of Lovington extends its heartfelt thanks for the generous grant provided to the Lovington MainStreet Corporation to aid in the renovation and re-opening of the Lea Theatre. Through strong partnerships with businesses like T-Mobile, small communities like the City of Lovington can continue to thrive, grow, and move forward.”
Lovington MainStreet board president Chuck Johnson expressed heartfelt appreciation for their partners and donors, noting, “We are incredibly thankful for the support of our partners and donors. Without their contributions, our ambitious ideas and goals would have remained unattainable.” This diverse funding backing not only underscores the value of preserving historic landmarks but also serves as a testament to the collective effort to revitalize the heart of Lovington.