Plea entered:

A plea agreement has been reached in the capital murder case against Ryan Champion, an Oak Grove man accused of conspiring in a murder-for-hire scheme that resulted in the deaths of his mother, father and sister in Oct. 2014, and killing his accomplice. Champion pleaded guilty to three counts of complicity to murder, one count of murder and one count of kidnapping. For more details see Friday's edition of The Sun

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Columbia Theatre restoration draws gift of $25,000

By Leanne Fuller lfuller@paducahsun.com

The Columbia Club - the nonprofit organization that owns the Columbia Theatre on Broadway and is dedicated to its preservation and restoration - announced Wednesday a $25,000 gift has been given for the project.

"We received word from the Community Foundation of West Kentucky today that an anonymous donor has pledged $25,000 towards our restoration project," club spokeswoman Darlene Mazzone said.  

Mazzone is co-chairwoman of the Columbia Club task force, which formed to manage the project. She said the club gave a presentation to the Community Foundation - a nonprofit organization in Paducah that connects donors with western Kentucky non-profits - earlier this year that included an overview of the project and informed the group about its plans for eventually opening and operating the theatre.

"We are absolutely thrilled that we have received this gracious gift via the Community Foundation," Mazzone said. "This is proof positive that this outstanding organization is an extraordinary way for viable community projects to seek potential support. We are truly grateful for their existence and their willingness to allow us tell the story of this amazing building in Paducah."

She said the total cost of the restoration of the 1920s-era building, which closed in 1987, is likely in the neighborhood of $6 million to $7 million. The amount the club needs to raise is up in the air because there are tax credits and grants for which it can apply.

Fundraising hasn't officially begun for the project, and the club's goal will depend on what Mazzone said is the next step in the process for the project: engaging a consultant to conduct a feasibility study for the restoration.

"We do need someone in the (historic restoration) industry to take a look at our plan and what we need to raise in the community outside of grants and tax credits," she explained.

Mazzone said the feasibility study is precisely what the donation will be used for.

"It's going to be vital to us," she added.

Mazzone, who recalls going to the Columbia Theatre while growing up, said the club will also conduct surveys and other outreach in Paducah and the surrounding region in the near future. She said the club will use community input to help create a workable plan to move the project forward.

While the club's fundraising campaign won't begin until after the feasibility study, Mazzone said those interested can make donations at thecolumbiaclub.org.

Contact Leanne Fuller, a Sun staff writer, at 270-575-8653.

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