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Volunteers rally to remove Paramount Theatre seats before flood

Theater officials say they're taking 'lessons learned from 2008'

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CEDAR RAPIDS — The Paramount Theatre asked for help, and their call was answered.

Hundreds of volunteers arrived Sunday morning to move 880 main-floor seats up to the second floor in preparation of the floodwaters from the Cedar River that are predicted to crest Tuesday morning.

Theater officials — taking lessons learned from the 2008 flood — are not taking any chances.

“Anything that was portable at all has been moved from the basement and the main floor,” said Jason Anderson, Paramount general manager. “Really, today’s effort is to move anything that’s not necessarily portable but can be disassembled and moved up.”

The wood and fabric seats were purchased during the theater’s renovations following damage caused by about nine feet of floodwater on the main floor. However, Anderson said they were able to save the 90-year-old historic end caps at the end of the rows, which also now have been moved upstairs.

Paramount, at 123 Third Ave. SE, reopened in 2012.

“In 2008, this was the biggest jolt to my system, when I saw those big brass (front) doors had fallen. I cried the most about that,” recalled Lisa Shields of Cedar Rapids, who volunteered to help in the theater Sunday. “We’re Cedar Rapidians. We’ve got to stick together.”

A call was put out on Facebook Friday evening for volunteers to bring tools, but some organizers didn’t expect the large turnout.

“Today was overwhelmingly phenomenal,” said Sharon Cummins, executive director of VenuWorks Cedar Rapids.

About 20 members of Carpenters Local 308 and their families were among the volunteers Sunday, taking apart chairs before a line of people carried them upstairs.

“We got a lot of work in this building, and when the call came to protect it, we responded,” Local 308 President Bob Doubek said.

The union was instrumental in helping the Paramount rebuild after 2008, and Doubek worked on the orchestra pit in front of the stage during the theater’s renovations.

Removing the seats is the last step in the theater’s preparations before employees evacuate by the city’s mandated time of 8 p.m.tonight. Anderson said crews will be installing a generator from Nelson Electric to power the theater’s installed generator, once Alliant Energy shuts off power Sunday afternoon.

The generator will power the theater’s sump pumps and air-conditioning, as Anderson said officials are worried about damage humidity could cause to the building’s plaster and moldings.

Theater officials said they’re confident they will support to help rebuild, if necessary.

“We feel that the Paramount is kind of the city’s crown jewel, but I think this proves it,” Anderson said.

For all of The Gazette's Flood 2016 coverage, please visit our flood coverage center.

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