Technology And Tables: Matching Grant Furthers ETH Upgrade Efforts By Two Local Families
Thanks to the efforts of a few Newtown residents, Edmond Town Hall recently received several key technology upgrades.
The installation of a 74-foot electric screen to the historic building’s Alexandria Room has been complemented by two additional enhancements that will benefit the building, its tenants and renters, and those who attend programs at the Main Street landmark for years to come.
The massive screen installation above the third floor stage was complemented by a new LED projector for that space.
Edmond Town Hall’s lobby also received a pair of 50-inch flatscreen TVs — serving as digital signs that highlight upcoming programs and special events and their sponsors. The building also received new flatscreen monitors for its meeting rooms, further adding appeal to those spaces for meetings and presentations.
Newtown resident Scott Cicciari said the idea for the upgrades occurred to him when he attended an event a few years ago.
“It was a senior movie night and we had to borrow equipment. We tried to pull together an event, projecting something on a back wall,” he said. “I remember thinking, ‘Man, if we could ever come up with a way to raise funds to help do some technology updates, that’d be fantastic.’”
Cicciari and his family — wife Kristin, and their children — have lived in town for over 20 years, he said. They have enjoyed many movie screenings and other events at the historic building.
The opportunity to make those changes happen presented itself in late 2021. In partnership with giving funds through his employer, Cicciari and his wife, and another Newtown couple collaborated to raise funds for Edmond Town Hall technology upgrades.
Cicciari is a vice president-technology for the Stamford-based Synchrony. Friend and fellow Synchrony employee Carol Juel, an executive vice president-chief technology and operating officer, and her husband Eric, began to combine efforts at the end of 2021, through Synchrony’s Season of Caring.
“Synchrony is such a huge company when it comes to supporting employees and functions like this,” Cicciari said. “We have a two for one matching gift.”
Between personal donations by each family and the company’s matching gift, “together we were able to raise funds to allow us to do some really cool technology updates here,” Cicciari told The Newtown Bee.
The residents went through the ETH Board of Managers, according to Cicciari, to make sure their ideas aligned with that of the board and the building’s use.
“Once we got the OK, we rallied to get others to donate toward our matching goal,” he said.
Fundraising concluded at the end of 2021, at which point it was time to begin doing research and then purchasing the equipment. The Cicciaris and Jules partnered, said Cicciari, with DNR Laboratories and Don Gamsjager to help subsidize some of the costs as well.
DNR was the company ETH turned to when it converted its theater to handle digital movies a few years ago. Cicciari, according to Edmond Town Hall Operations Manager Sheila Torres, was among the residents to help make that conversion happen through donations and other assistance.
The latest technology installation began in autumn 2022, with the new screen and LED projector in use by November, according to Torres. Schools, the local RTC, and other renters have already taken advantage of the new offering.
“You plug in your laptop, and you’re projecting your presentation to that huge screen. It’s crystal clear,” she said. “You control it by remote. People love having that capability. It’s so much better than before,” she said.
“We used to have a video cart and this little 42-inch TV on it that people were rolling into different rooms,” Cicciari said. “We put a 65-inch TV in those rooms and it’s made another difference. The monitors are still on rolling carts, so everything is still portable, but so much better.”
Final software and monitor installations in the lobby and meeting rooms were completed by mid-February, just a few weeks before Torres retired.
Torres was thrilled with the upgrades, which were among the final ones completed ahead of her recent departure from 45 Main Street (see separate story).
“We’ve already been using the space differently,” she said early last month of the Alexandria Room. “We have a few comedy shows booked in here, one nearly sold out already.
“That stage, it’s our second stage in the building,” she added. “Now that we have all these upgrades and we’re doing all these different things in there, we want people to realize this is a place where you can do other performances.
“If you can’t do the big stage you can do the little stage, but we didn’t want to call it The Little Stage, so we’re now calling it Stage 2. It sounds more like a performance space, rather than a banquet hall — which is how it’s used a lot, of course, and that’s perfectly OK — but as a performance space, calling it Stage 2, it lets people see that it can be used in that manner.
“It’s a way to do smaller performances, intimate shows like comedy performances and other types of things,” she said. “It’s very exciting for us.”
The monitors in the lobby allow ads and previews to be seen every day of the week, she said. Movie screenings, traditionally done six nights a week, are now running two or three nights a week. Offices are being used during the week, however, so the building is still in regular use every day.
“The monitors make such a difference,” Torres said, “because we’re able to connect everything together, for one thing. We have more eyes on the ads, because they’re running all the time.
“It also makes the space a little less static,” she added. “It livens up the space, and as people come in for one event they see how much more we offer and do here now.”
The lobby monitors have been installed on the northern and southern walls of the lobby, immediately over the traditional marquee boards that continue to highlight upcoming movies and special events. Those aren’t going anywhere, Torres said.
“We’ll never get rid of the marquee boards,” she said. “They’re too historic. There’s too much tradition there.”
‘Low Tech But Important’
Beyond the technology upgrades, the funds through The Juel Family-Cicciardi Family-Synchrony Fund allowed the town hall board to do something Torres calls “low tech but equally important.”
The grant allowed the replacement of 13 “very aging tables” in the Alexandria Room, Torres said. The board purchased MightyLite tables, she said, which are “very easy to use, they’re lightweight but very durable, and they have a 15-year warranty.”
The previous tables were heavy, and wearing out. They were difficult for staff to move around, and not always easy to work with.
They were also, unfortunately, a low priority budget item.
“This is the kind of stuff that was really necessary, but when you have an aging building, things like tables usually fall to the bottom of the list,” she said.
Torres was so happy to have those tables arrive.
“It’s such a nice thing to be able to have them, because when people want to rent that space they now have these really nice tables to use,” she said.
A quasi-public organization, The Edmond Town Hall receives some funding from the Town. Maintenance for the building relies primarily on revenue generated through event and space rentals.
“I don’t want to minimize the importance of Town’s support of this building, and the budgeting around being able to maintain a facility like this,” Cicciari said, with Torres nodding in agreement. “Us going out to raise some additional funds to help do some technology updates really was just driven by our seeing the need to want to help make a difference, to use the space a little bit differently.
“We’re very grateful to the Town and the budgets we have here. This was just an opportunity of the two families in partnership with our company,” he added.
Cicciari said his assist toward the town hall is his way of serving his home community.
“It’s my way of giving back where you can make a difference,” he said. “Taxes and town budgets can only go so far, and small things like this make a big difference for organizations like the Edmond Town Hall. You serve where you can, and pay it forward.”
Managing Editor Shannon Hicks can be reached at email@example.com.