The loan is in Christine Scott's name. She is a local attorney and Lee Scott's wife.
Lee Scott said he wants to open the hall in late April.
“The loan will take care of the seating, lighting and sound systems and concession stands,” he said. “I needed a purchase order for the seats, and I could not do that until the loan was approved.”
Scott bought the former Columbia Movie Theater near the Roy Rogers Esplanade for $1 in 2001 after the city condemned it.
He began renovating the building in August of that year and plans to show a variety of musical concerts, comedy shows and second-run movies. Scott has not booked any acts, but he said Puddle of Mudd and Twisted are examples of the type of bands he wants. Both acts have national followings.
Scott said he has put about $1.5 million into the building, along with full-coverage insurance premiums each month.
He considered selling it once the renovation is completed, but said he will probably keep it and let Joe Haines and Eddie Scott run the business.
Scott credits Mayor Jim Kalb for getting the funding approved. Scott applied for the loan in November.
Kalb is a member of the city loan committee. He said the process for getting a loan takes awhile, which is why Scott had to wait several months for the approval.
Kalb said Scott's criminal past was not an issue in approving the loan for the public funds, although Scott said he would have understood had it been. In the 1980s, Scott served prison time for theft, drug trafficking and using the mail to commit bribery.
“I think the Columbia will do a lot to bring people to downtown Portsmouth,” Kalb said. “With the quality of shows he's talking about, we should be able to bring people in from a large area, probably even as far as Columbus.”
Even though the hall has not yet opened, some bands have already taken the stage. Scott is letting local bands use the hall to rehearse in. He has set up a drum kit and several sound monitors onstage.
JEFF BARRON can be reached at (740) 353-3101, ext. 236.