$1.2 million grant announced to help distressed regions complete projects

On Thursday, November 7th, officials announced a $1.2 million grant in federal funding to help establish the Appalachian Opportunity Zone Initiative.

The initiative is to help counties and regions develop projects to help compete with other regions.

One of these projects is the Booneville Seale Theater, which used to be the centerpiece of Booneville. Now, many see it as just another run down building.

“It needs cleaned up cause it has lead and mold and it has some asbestos in it, but it has a lot of deterioration on the inside of it cause where the roof went bad so many years ago before it was replaced again,” said Sue Christian the Booneville Theater Project director.

Christian started a project nearly 10 years ago to try to reopen the theater.

“I think our county needs something hopeful and we’ve got a lot of enthusiasm for our project,” said Christian.

Christian says the $1.2 million grant will help projects like hers.

“It’s really going to make us more visible to other people and so it was really good. It would be nice if somebody said here’s a bunch of money to do your project, but you know all these baby steps are necessary,” said Christian.

Four years ago, they opened the Booneville Entertainment Center (BEC) to see if the town even wanted a theater.

“We have people who are interested in coming to plays here in this little facility. We pack the building whenever we do a play,” said Christian.

They show a movie every Friday night for free.

“It kind of helps us offset the cost of the movie and we also offer advertisements and things on our screen,” said Christian.

Christian says she applied for a grant which will help them hire certified people to clean out the issues on the inside of the building.

They hope this will be a leap forward to help them reopen.