By Neale Gulley
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — The historic Riviera Theatre has hired a new director of development as plans to renovate and expand the popular venue continue.
Gary J. Rouleau was hired this week to fill the brand new position. He is a longtime grant consultant and former development aide to both current state Sen. George Maziarz, R-Newfane, and former Gov. George Pataki.
In his new role, Rouleau will coordinate all activities related to development, fundraising, grants and capital campaigns for the theater, Executive Director Frank Cannata said.
He said the not-for-profit theater has hired Rouleau for past campaigns, and that a good working relationship already exists between both parties. However, never before has such a full-time position existed within the theater.
“We’ve never really had a development position,” Cannata said. “We’re going to take a more aggressive approach to financial support from throughout Western New York.”
The driving factor, he said, involves current and future improvements at the theater, which has already included about $2 million in improvements in recent years.
On the horizon are even bigger plans, he said, including a planned full restoration of the venue’s marquee this spring (using matching funds through the New York Parks grant program and Wendt Foundation) and the demolition of nearby 68 Main St., using about $365,000 in Brownfield program grants.
The demolition will in turn create space for an overall $4.5 million expansion of the theater into a full-scale performing arts center, including additional performance space, an entrance off Main Street, improved facilities and more.
Cannata stressed that attendance and bookings at the venue are at an all-time high, and said it’s important for the theater to convey the message that its fundraising pull is sizable.
“The theater is booming,” he said. “We’ve brought in national and international acts ... but people won’t donate money unless you ask them for money.”
According to a press release, before joining the Historic Rivera Theatre, Rouleau was the director of grant operations for a large grant-consulting firm where he managed and coordinated research, proposal writing, project administration and development for municipalities, school districts, and a diverse array of not-for-profit organizations across the state.
Prior to that, he was a staff member for Maziarz, where he worked as director of the state’s Senate Committee on Tourism, Recreation and Sports Development. Rouleau also previously worked as a staff member for the WNY Regional Office in the Pataki administration.
He has a degree in business administration from Hilbert College.Contact City Editor Neale Gulley at 534-4237.