By Stephen Smoot
Since its reopening, Warner’s Drive-In has reestablished its place as a go to center for fun and entertainment on weekend nights during the warm weather months. The facility’s leadership team has an expanded vision for the theater, both in terms of improving the guest experience and expanding the slate of potential offerings.
“Up to this point, the drive-in has been using its grant and donated funds to renovate and restore existing infrastructure and buildings, most of which date back to the original drive-in construction in 1952,” explained Bob Davis, who works on multiple committees for Warner’s Drive-In and Cultural Resource Center.
Efforts have included obtaining “several smaller grants” from the West Virginia Department of Arts, Culture, and History. These grants funded “a new roof for the snack bar, rebuilt entry gates and signs, a new roof on the screen building, and a new HVAC system for the snack building.”
Governor Jim Justice, accompanied by Secretary Randall Reid-Smith, shared the news of the latest grant from the WVDACH as part of a presentation delivered in Clarksburg’s Robinson Grand Performing Arts Center. Warner’s received a Cultural Facilities and Capital Resources grant for more than $51,000.
The most recent grant, Davis said, is “for the construction of a new restroom facility and septic system.” Until now, the organization relied “on temporary fixes to our aging bathroom and septic facilities in recent years. Construction started in fall with a local partner, Upper Tract based VRER Construction, and should see completion in May prior to the facility’s season opening.”
Grants from WVDACH come on a dollar for dollar match basis, meaning that Warner’s must match every dollar provided with money of their own from revenues or generous donors. “We had a donation from the Pianfetti Foundation and many community members to help with the matching requirement,” Davis explained.
This grant helps to fulfill the initial phase of the vision for Warner’s, which was to bring facilities up to date. Once the restroom and septic system work has finished, Davis says, “We plan to turn our attention to the expansion of our facilities to support programming in the performing arts.”
In 2024, Warner’s plans to upgrade screen building rooms for use as backstage and storage areas. “This is an exciting phase in our long-term plans,” Davis stated, “because it takes us into a totally new area of our mission to support arts and culture in Pendleton County and the surrounding regions.”
During the announcement of the 44 grant awards, Justice, alongside his constant sidekick Babydog, shared that “they’re an investment in dreams, communities, and the Mountain State’s bright future. The arts are the bridges that connect us, the voices that give us strength, and the colors that paint our path forward. Together, we’re continuing to make West Virginia not just a state with artists, but a living, breathing work of art.”