From AP - News Headlines -

Champaign Park Board Delays Decision on Virginia Theatre Marquee

Faced with opposition to its plans to take down the neon marquee at the Virginia Theatre, the Champaign Park Board has decided the issue needs more study.

The V-shaped neon marquee has announced shows at the Virginia for 60 years or more. But Champaign park officials say restoration plans have always called for installing a less flashy marquee resembling what was on the Virginia when it opened in 1921. Susanne Skaggs, speaking during the public comment portion of Wednesday night's Champaign Park Board meeting, says the neon marquee distracts from the Virginia's Italian Renaissance façade.

"The marquee, as far as I'm concerned, is nothing but signage" says Skaggs. "And signage, certainly, can be easily changed."

But eight other people told park commissioners the neon marquee is an important part of the Virginia's history. Adam Smith is vice-chairman of the Champaign Historic Preservation Commission, which has formally requested that the neon marquee be preserved. Smith says the marquee has become a local landmark in itself.

"If the neon is lit, you know something is happening that night", says Smith, "you pull over on Park Street, you park and you find out what it is."

Champaign Park Commissioners voted Wednesday night to delay a decision on the Virginia marquee until they can get more information --- including how much it would cost to restore the current neon marquee, which is badly run down.

But the Park Board did approve nearly $600,000 in restoration work to be done this summer on the Virginia lobby, funded by private donations. Park Commissioners hope to do work on the marquee at the same time.