Senator views Yam Theater

Tony Parra: PNT Staff Writer

U.S. Sen. Jeff Bingaman took a first-hand look at the Yam Movie Palace on Thursday morning, a theater which has federal dollars invested in it.

Bingaman (D-N.M.) helped secure $200,000 in federal funds for renovation of the Yam Movie Palace through a spending bill signed into law Wednesday by President George W. Bush. The theater will be used for live theater, concerts, receptions, classic movies, dances and art exhibits.

“I look forward to coming back here and seeing movies sometime,” Bingaman said on Thursday before a tour of the building, which has had work to its facade. “It’s easier to provide assistance from the federal level when something is being done at the local level.”

The City of Portales representatives can now fill out paperwork at the start of 2006 and can receive the money by the spring. Bingaman helped secure money through the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Debi Lee, Portales city manager, previously stated the program is hopeful to receive enough funds to complete the project by 2008.

“I’m excited about this project,” Gref Erf, Portales MainStreet Organization member, said. “I’m really proud of Portales. The Yam is the central piece of what we’re trying to do in Portales. It’s a great part of our history.”

Erf said the Yam Movie Palace in the 1920s was a silent movie theater. He said the inclusion of sound to the movies in the 1930s revitalized the movie industry and brought in people to watch the movies.

Portales Mayor Orlando Ortega said more than $100,000 was raised through private donations through the Portales MainStreet Organization.

“Our main street program has been so effective,” Ortega said. “A lot of volunteers in the community have helped. Portales is moving in the right direction.”

The movie theater was built in 1930 in downtown Portales and was named for the importance of the yam, a main agricultural crop in the area, according to a press release from Bingaman’s office.