Rockford Casino funds opera box upgrades for local arts center

Coronado Performing Arts Center will open opera box to Hard Rock Casino VIP’s.
Published: Sep. 19, 2022 at 6:27 PM CDT
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ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) - The Coronado Performing Arts Center in Rockford has 95 years of memories ingrained within it’s walls, but the opera box is a different story.

The opera box is renovated, but not everyone can get a ticket. It’s a space some hope to watch a show from one day and now you could have the chance, but there’s a catch.

“Just was in awe when I walked into the building. It’s just so beautiful and I couldn’t believe that this was here,” said Geno Iafrate, Rockford Casino’s president.

Iafrate says he attended a concert at the Coronado Performing Arts Center years back. He was so distracted by the empty opera box that he could barely focus on the show. This made Iafrate wonder, why is nobody sitting up there? He went forth with making the decision to do something about it.

“It just feels like you were taken back in time and it’s just an amazing space,” he said.

The elegant opera box has not been used in 70 years. The goal was to keep its historic look the same just with some additional tweaks. Now, it will finally be filled with people once again, Hard Rock Casino VIP members to be exact.

Iafrate says alongside the opera box, the VIP guests will also get to enjoy the Club 27 suite.

“I think the vast majority of people who come to the Coronado will never get to experience this space,” he said.

Leaders say modern safety standards posed a fall risk which is why the box was not used before. Now they have handrails and relocated stairs for more accessible use. Funding for the reconstruction comes straight from Hard Rock Casino, no loans or grants were used to pay for renovations.

“It does look beautiful and pristine right? It doesn’t look like we did something and that’s the object of historic preservation. We don’t want anybody to know when we did something, only that it’s beautiful,” said Beth Howard, the executive director with Friends of the Coronado.

Anyone who wants to experience the opera box or the Club 27 suite will need to join Hard Rock Casino’s free loyalty program, called “Unity.”

The Coronado was originally built in 1927, and renovated in 2001. This will be the center’s second reconstruction since then.