Yam Theater nears completion

By Argen Duncan: PNT senior writer

After a long period of vacancy and renovations, The Yam Theater is nearing its re-opening day.

Stephen Doerr, board member of Portales MainStreet, which owns The Yam, said he expected sub-contractors to finish their work in three weeks. Volunteers are to complete tasks that don’t require licensed professionals, such as putting in carpet.

City Planning Director Sammy Standefer, who has overseen the project, estimated that it would take another month or two for volunteers to finish. The current effort has taken a little more than three years, said Portales MainStreet manager Nicole Wilkening.

Doerr said the building would be functional for various events when it opened, but features could be added as money became available.

Three buildings — the old Yam Movie Palace, the front half of a Portales Ace Hardware storage building and a former restaurant — have become one event venue.

“We tried to save as much of what was here as we could,” Doerr said.

Workers even salvaged a number of the old hammered-copper ceiling tiles, which still adorn The Yam in two places.

The large main room boasts a stage and high ceiling.

A garage-type door backstage opens to allow easy movement of equipment.

“So the design is completely functional,” Doerr said.

Included are a concession area, meeting room and storage area for tables and chairs.

Doerr said planners intend to turn the area behind the building into a fenced courtyard, probably with tables and chairs. A projection room, which he said could double as an informal meeting room, is located upstairs.

“It’s completely wired for sound,” Doerr said of theater.

Doerr said The Yam, once full of pigeons and dilapidated, is handicap accessible and up to code. He believes the remodeled theater will be the spark that helps downtown Portales grow.

The cost for the renovations was 60 percent lower than the lowest architect’s bid, Doerr said. Standefer said contractor Danny Heflin used local products and sub-contractors for the project whenever possible.

Doerr said Portales MainStreet is fixing up Main Street one building at a time.

“The overall plan is to get as much growth and activity here as we can,” he said.