LAKESHORE - The goal of funding announcements - both recently and forthcoming - for the Looney’s Amphitheater and Culture Center, is to focus on relieving debt incurred from renovations, so the focus can be on art-related programs and services for the county and area.
Two days after the Looney’s Complex received the highly anticipated $25,000 from the Alabama Power Foundation on Aug. 29, State Senator Garlan Gudger and Representative Tim Wadsworth announced $850,000 in a supplemental appropriation through Wallace State Community College.
Gudger emphasized he wanted the $850,000 to be used to focus on any debt, so renovations could proceed at full force.
Alabama Power Community Relations Manager Melinda Weaver paid a special visit to Looney’s Aug. 29, with a $25,000 check in hand presented to J.D. Snoddy, president of the Winston County Arts Council, which owns the Looney’s complex.
“It’s to help with renovations with the theater and cultural center,” Weaver stated. “This project will not only enhance quality of life for northwest Alabama, but it also enhances tourism for Winston County, and it will help boost our economy.”
Weaver added she hoped the $25,000 presentation will be a way of boosting other funding partners to come forward and provide assistance.
“It will make a lasting impact for a long time to come,” Weaver stated.
“I appreciate Alabama Power supporting Winston County and realizing how important Looney’s Tavern is for not only the arts, but places for us to gather and also for future tourism,” Gudger stated.
Turning to the $850,000 approved through Wallace State, Gudger, who is also a member of the Education Trust Fund Committee, noted he had requested $1 million for Looney’s Tavern.
After looking at the figures, budget chair Arthur Orr, requested $850,000 be applied through the state community college system back to Looney’s Tavern, Gudger explained.
“That will help pay off their debt and also help with the renovations they have going forward,” Gudger pointed out.
“I’m excited about Looney’s Tavern and the potential it has,” Gudger stated, recalling the days when he went to the “Incident at Looney’s Tavern” stage production at the amphitheater, which started back in the 1980s and continued until its last production in the early 2000s.
The complex sat vacant over 20 years, until the Arts Council purchased the complex in 2022. Since then, they have been doing major renovations at the Dual Destiny Theater, entrance and exits, putt-putt golf course and outdoor stairs, but are waiting on enough money to be generated to do major renovations at the amphitheater, arts council members said.
“Tourism is something we are not pushing as hard as we could,” Gudger continued. “This is a great way for us to utilize the assets we have in Winston County.
“I was thankful I was able to get money in the budget for that,” Gudger concluded.
Wadsworth explained the $850,000 is a supplemental appropriation that has already been officially approved for Looney’s.
“We’re continuing to seek funding through any and all means to assist Looney’s Tavern becoming operational, which would benefit the entire county,” Wadsworth said.
Estes is proud of the Alabama Power funding and future funding for Looney’s.
“I am grateful for Alabama Power being a community partner, as they have always proven to be across the state of Alabama,” Estes pointed out.
“I am thankful they realize the importance of Looney’s Tavern and the role this facility continues to play in our community. These funds will be very wisely used and benefit Winston County and areas beyond for those who come into our county to take part in functions taking place there,” Estes added.
Snoddy pointed out the funds that Looney’s receives, no matter the source, are wisely used, with renovations playing a vital role in preparing the complex for upcoming events.
“We are using every penny we bring in for refurbishing Looney’s,” pointed out Arts Council Vice President Theresa Snoddy. “It’s a work of love. We’ve had volunteers. We’ve had donors. We have regular patrons, and we appreciate all of them.”
“We could not do these things without our partners,” added J.D. “Alabama Power, Melinda (Weaver), has always been great to us in everything we do in the arts council...
“We have completed work on the indoor theater except for the dressing room, and that is in the works,” J.D. added.
Looney’s Project Manager David Jacobs is talking with industries about forming partnerships that will benefit the complex, Snoddy added.
Bathrooms are being renovated at the building formerly used as Sister Sarah’s restaurant on the grounds of the complex, he continued.
Events such as reunions, baby or bridal showers and art classes for clients of the Northwest Mental Health Center are already being held at Sister Sarah’s, J.D. said.
Steps have been completed leading from the parking lot down to the buildings that were formerly used as a gift shop, concession and ticket area for the amphitheater.
The road that was formerly an exit route from Looney’s down to Highway 278, sat abandoned for years with wild growth overtaking it. The road has now been cleared and drainage added.
“We’re taking bids on some asphalt at both driveways,” J.D. said, adding that flag poles have been painted and new flags obtained.
Ditches are being prepared in order to run electricity to illuminate the flag poles at night, according to J.D.
A committee has also been selected working with an art designer to revamp the putt-putt golf course, so that each of the 18 holes will be named in honor of a county historical landmark, tourist attraction or famous Winston County individual, arts council members said.
“We are going to promote everybody’s tourism from here, too,” said J.D. “I always said this is a “we” thing not an “I” thing. The arts council wants to promote everyone in the county.”
Renovations are taking place at the amphitheater, with all of the old seats removed and wild brush cleared.
Plans are to have newer seating and grass slopes for portable chairs or blankets. Plans are to have a concrete stage, with bids being sought for sound and lighting, according to the arts council.
Upcoming concerts, entertainment
All of these renovations are necessary in order to open the amphitheater to concerts, plays and other venues.
Alter Point, a Christian group that creates a big attendance, will be coming back Sept. 27, in a prayer and patriotism service, with plans to continue these services once a month.
The award-winning country-rock band Tremayne is lined up to perform at Looney’s on Oct. 28.
Southern Ghost Girls will be returning to Looney’s Oct. 26 for a ghost and historical hunt, and a craft fair is also in the works for October 21, added Theresa.
The Blue Diamond Dancers, who will be performing this year in the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York, will be performing two shows at Dual Destiny, including a Christmas show, in December, J.D. added.
“We’re looking at a possible Elvis show. We haven’t nailed that down, but we’re looking at an Elvis impersonator doing a Christmas show,” he added.
A children’s beauty pageant, sponsored by the Winston County High School Yellow Jacket Band, will take place Dec. 9 at Looney’s.
“We have things working,” J.D. added. “We are refurbishing and operating at the same time.
J.D. thanked everyone for helping and supporting the efforts.
Plans are to have a grand reopening when everything is ready, according to Theresa.
See complete story in the Northwest Alabamian.