State Theater building 2020

A look at the former State Theater on Main Street today.

When Eric and Amanda Reighard returned to the Johnstown area – after being away for a few years – they wanted to get involved in an entrepreneurial endeavor while also recreating some of the amenities they enjoyed when living in Baltimore.

“We really loved the arts, the entertainment, all of the things we could do on a Friday night or really any night of the week,” said Eric Reighard, a 2004 Richland High School graduate who now lives in Geistown with Amanda and their two children. 

“What if we could do something cool that was pretty niche and boutique that was in the Baltimore area and bring it back to the Johnstown area on a smaller scale?”

Then, in 2019, Discover Downtown Johnstown Partnership held a pilot program, showing movies at the old State Theater with the intention of bringing visitors into the central business district and possibly attracting a group to buy and operate the venue, located inside Conemaugh Health System’s Lee Campus. The city and health system then put together a request for proposal seeking applicants.

The Reighards established The Johnstown State Theater, LLC, which Eric called a “grassroots team supporting the local grassroots effort,” and submitted a proposal.

They were selected from among three finalists, following a review process that involved the city, DDJP, health system and Johnstown Redevelopment Authority. A verbal agreement was recently reached between The Johnstown State Theater, LLC, and Conemaugh Health System, a member of Duke LifePoint Healthcare, as confirmed by Reighard and John Dubnansky, Johnstown’s community and economic development director.

Investors are being lined up for the $28 million project that should take 36 months from groundbreaking to completion, although sections could be opened in phases, according to Reighard.

Contractual details, including ownership transfer, timelines and benchmarks, are still being worked out.

Eric Reighard said the process is “still pretty preliminary.”

Conemaugh Health System declined to comment at this time.

Reighard envisions a multi-purpose facility with screening rooms, a performing arts venue, classrooms for the arts, recording studio, lodging suites and 1920s-style speakeasy with a jazz stage and cigar bar.

If realized, the modern State Theater might become a center of nightlife in downtown Johnstown.

“The State Theater, in its prominent location within the downtown and its redevelopment, is essential for us to continue with redevelopment projects in the city and moving in a positive direction,” Dubnansky said. 

“The downtown lacks a certain quantity of entertainment venues. And so restoration work or renovation work at the theater to provide it as an entertainment venue will help with a lot of other things we’re doing throughout the community on the development side, including other economic development efforts throughout the community.”

Dave Sutor is a reporter for The Tribune-Democrat. He can be reached at (814) 532-5056. Follow him on Twitter @Dave_Sutor.

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