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Rockford entertainment leaders preview big renovations ahead of reopening

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ROCKFORD (WREX) — Both the Coronado Performing Arts Center and BMO Harris Bank Center look forward to welcoming people back in their doors for what Friends of the Coronado Executive Director Beth Howard believes could be a new era of entertainment for the Forest City.

"We used to have a format for certain sized venues, certain markets, what type of entertainment is going to be touring in those markets," Howard said. "The molds are basically broken right now."

After 15 months of no tours and events, Howard says the only certainty in this entertainment industry is that people want to perform meaning Rockford could get more opportunities despite its size.

"In some ways, the fences have been knocked down, and Rockford is ripe and ready for some pretty exciting entertainment," Howard said.

But Rockford has more going for it than the circumstances COVID-19 put on the entertainment industry. Over the next 48 months, both the Coronado and BMO will get millions of dollars in upgrades.

For the BMO, $20 million in renovations will be thanks to the Chicago Blackhawks purchase of the Rockford IceHogs. Not only will the purchase keep the fan favorite hockey team in the 815, interim general manager at the BMO Gretchen Gilmore says it will bring a strong community partner to the Stateline.

"When you cross over the river, you're going to see Chicago Blackhawks, Rockford IceHogs, it's going to be a big deal," Gilmore said.

The $20 million in renovations will play out in two phases for the BMO.

The first will take place heading into this fall's hockey season and might not catch the average fan's eye. The entire floor of the BMO will be ripped up and replaced along with a professional grade dehumidification system for the ice.

The second phase will take place before the fall of 2022 and will almost make the BMO unrecognizable on the inside for longtime fans.

  • New scoreboard which will be 'significantly bigger' and will include new graphics for gamedays
  • Ribbon video board around the stadium
  • A new premium seating section around the press box. These seats could include an all-inclusive ticket which would cover some level of food, drink and parking
  • Redone bar which will include ringside access
  • Renovated Blue Flame grill section with more tables and seating
  • More food options with an atrium setup on part of the concourse
  • Renovated entrance and box office

For the Coronado, the theatre redid a number of their historic furniture pieces during the pandemic. Now, the theatre will shift its focus to it's marque at the front of the building. It will include new LEDs and mechanical features with construction starting within the next few months.

Both the BMO and Coronado say they have a lot of interest in events this fall, and look forward to announcing ticket sales when dates are officially booked.

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William Ingalls

William Ingalls is the weekend reporter at WREX. He joined the team in 2019 as a photographer after graduating with a Bachelor’s Degree in Journalism and English from Augustana College. William was born and raised in Rockford and went to high school at Christian Life.

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