After decades of sitting empty and vacant, there is a new spark of energy for revitalizing a critical, high-potential-impact space in Sparta’s historic downtown district. Sparta’s Downtown Development Authority (DDA) has launched an initiative to explore the possibilities, potential, and viability of activating the space widely known as the former Sparta Opera House.
Located above the North Kent Eagles at 186 East Division Street, the historic opera house space was completed in 1914 and originally could seat over 500 people. For a number of years, the space was successfully utilized for live plays, community dances, and even film exhibitions. Sparta student productions were held there regularly, as well as major local boxing matches that would draw participants from as far away as Grand Rapids and Muskegon.
However, during the 1930's, as the uses of the first floor changed from restaurant to pool hall to private club, the opera house space became used primarily for storage. It has essentially sat unused since the 1940's
In December, members of the DDA task force approached the Board of the North Kent Eagles and requested the group's "blessing" to formally explore the possibilities for the former opera house space, including soliciting input from the greater Sparta Community. The task force is going into the listening process without any preconceived notions about what the final results will be.
Some preliminary examination work was done in 2011, putting a price tag on repairs and rehabilitation at approximately one million dollars. However, that did not address things like an operational model, programming, business plan, and the like.
While the thought of undertaking a project to reactivate the space is exciting to many local folks, it is likely to take a year or more to arrive at the point of answering the myriad of questions and determining what is actually feasible
Anyone interested in providing their input into the process or learning more about the initiative should contact the Sparta Chamber of Commerce / DDA and follow them on social media for more information and updates.