Here's the full text of the letter (which I referenced in today's story about the Virginia Theatre marquee) sent to the Champaign Park District from the Wagner Electric Sign Company, the Ohio-based contractor replacing the marquee.
The letter, which is dated the same day the marquee came off the theater, states that the company's vice president believes that the old triangular neon marquee was beyond any possible repair, and it may in fact have been a hazard to people walking below it.
November 16, 2010
RE: Virginia Theater Marquee Evaluation
Mr. Jim Spencer — Director of Operations
Champaign Park District
709 Kenwood Road
Champaign, IL 61821
As requested, I am providing you an evaluation of the existing marquee on the Virginia Theater, located at 203 West Park Avenue, Champaign, Illinois 61820.
After an extensive and in depth survey of the existing marquee and in my professional experience of over 30 years in marquee building/restoring, opinion & observation, it is highly recommended that the existing marquee be removed immediately due to being unsafe and a safety hazard to the community walking under or near by the marquee.
Findings as follows:
1) The structure and body of the side & front changeable copy cabinets were deteriorating to a point of no repair. The anchor points have deteriorated the areas of the cabinets, corroding the anchoring hardware. The only remedy for this problem is to replace all cabinets, interior structure and mounting hardware with new.
2) The interior wiring has the cloth coated wiring which has fallen off the majority of the wiring. The only remedy for this problem would be to totally replace all the wiring and bring electrical up to the NEC & Local Building Code. In doing so, connections on sockets are badly deteriorated, and would need to be replaced. A majority of socket shells are rendered useless, and would also need to be replaced. The socket replacements would not be available for an exact match to the rest. For esthetic reasons, all sockets should be replaced so they all match.
3) The ceiling supports were found to be in below satisfactory condition. Remedy: add additional ceiling supports. Note — in doing so, new access holes would be required and access covers would need to be made to cover access holes.
4) Main Structure of the Marquee: Main supports, coming out of the building are 2 channels (C8x11.5) on outer points, with 2 I-beams (I8x18.4) in the centers.
a. The condition of the channels were found to be in satisfactory condition with little rust and deterioration. Channels were found to be only setting in pockets, within the wall, not welded or bolted to any main building steel support(s). This condition would require to be brought up to current Local Building Codes. Remedy: remove terra cotta & building material to obtain access to main building steel, and weld connections.
b. The condition of the I-beams was found to be UNSAFE & a HAZARD. Both beams were found to be 80% deteriorated or more and REQUIRED REPLACEMENT.
i. Beams were found to only be setting in pockets, within the wall, not welded or bolted to any main building steel support(s). This condition would require to be brought up to current Local Building Codes. Remedy: remove terra cotta & building material to obtain access to main building steel, and weld connections.
ii. The left corner beam was to a point that it carried no load bearing of the marquee. An area of 2” on the top of the beam was found to be still intact. THIS BEAM NEEDS REPLACED IMMEDIATELY. The right center beam was found to be in a slightly better condition, carrying a fraction of the load bearing it was designed for. The beam shows a high degree of deterioration and REQUIRES REPLACEMENT. Remedy: BEAMS NEED REPLACED.
5) Support chains were visually found to be in satisfactory condition. No testing was conducted on the steel chain links. Links were loose and not up to current Building Code. Chain links showed normal exterior exposure wear, with very little deterioration. Remedy: Chain links should be wire brushed free of lose rust, links welded, and primed with a structural primer. It is also recommended that support chains are field tested and/or inspected by an engineer.
6) Support chain connection points at well. Steel eyes showed visual deterioration. Remedy: It is highly recommended the steel eyebolts be inspected by an engineer and field tested for integrity by a certified test facility.
7) Roof & Drainage.
a. Roof was found to be in poor condition. Leaks were found entering marquee cabinets and internal main structure. Remedy: Remove and replace with new.
b. Two roof drains were found, located on each end of the marquee at back wall. Drain pipes were 2”. Drainage was found to be operating at approximately 20% capacity. Left drain was considered useless, being clogged with debris on top of roof and inside drain pipe. Drain pipe was found with 90 degree sharp bends and not up to current Building Codes. Right drain was found to have debris on top of roof and partially enter drain pipe. Remedy: Left drain and pipe requires replacement and should be drain tested into building. Right drain should be replaced with new, pipe cleaned and drain tested into building.
It is in my professional experience of over 30 years in this field and personal opinion; the existing marquee is found beyond repair and is more economically feasible to replace the existing marquee with new.
The Wagner Electric Sign Company