Historic Ritz Theatre finds second life as sports complex
The Ritz Theatre in Muncy is getting a new life as a sports complex and cafe because of one Muncy man’s belief in the small downtown. “It will bring people into downtown and will help other local businesses,” said Royce Eyer who now owns the iconic structure.
The theatre’s new incarnation will be the Ritz Complex, which will have a sportsplex and cafe inside. It will also have the capacity to host weddings and events.
Bill Poulton, executive director of the Muncy Historical Society, is relieved the Ritz Theatre has been saved from demolition. “Once you bulldoze something it is gone. We hate to see our old structures disappear. It gives a sense of identity and belonging to the community,” said Poulton.
Built in the 1920s, the Ritz Theatre in Muncy was a crucial social spot for locals during its years of operation from 1925-2014. “It’s like any small town in America,” said Poulton. “The Ritz became the focal point of the community, for young and old alike, to meet and spend an afternoon seeing the latest news and movies, [The Ritz Complex] will bring kids and young adults back into town. It’s going to be reborn as a new gathering place.”
That is exactly Eyer’s intent. “I live in Muncy and have three kids in the school district and there isn’t a lot for kids to do, especially in the winter,” said Eyer.
The Ritz Complex is hoping to change that.
As sports often do, they draw people together. Eyer knows that well as the head wrestling coach for the Muncy Junior-Senior High School. “Sports teaches kids a lot about life,” he said.
The Ritz Complex will cater to many athletes with batting cages for baseball and softball, as well as, basketball hoops and wrestling mats.
A cafe and concession stand are now under construction in the front lobby of the theater. “There will be light fare with panini, grilled sandwiches, homemade soups, a juice bar and ice cream,” said Eyer’s brother, Matt, who is helping with construction and developing the menu. Eyer added, “We are creating a place where adults can have a bite to eat while their kids are using the sports arena.”
The Eyer brothers have been hard at work with demolition and construction since the Ritz’s purchase in October 2018. “You have to have a lot of imagination when you look at it now because there is a lot of work to be done,” said Royce.
Currently, the brothers have leveled the sloping floor where theater seats once sat. In addition, they turned the projection room into a balcony area where parents can watch their kids.
Construction on the 2,000 square foot structure has taken some ingenuity. Wood from the stage has been repurposed as countertops and tabletops. “We are both resourceful,” said Matt.
That resourcefulness is apparent by how the two have engineered the space to transform from a sporting venue to an event venue. A movable wall is being constructed to hide sports equipment so the sports area can accommodate weddings and special events. “For weddings, the reception area will be simple and classic and can fit up to 150 people,” said Royce.
Thankfully, no change has been made to its treasured marquee. “The fact that the current owner has saved the facade is important not only to the Muncy Historical Society but the community as a whole,” said Poutlon.
The Ritz Complex is scheduled for completion this June. “There will be an announcement about the grand opening on our Facebook page, The Ritz Complex,” said Royce.
As Royce and his brother continue on construction, they are looking forward to opening their doors to downtown Muncy.
“I used to pass this everyday and seeing it empty seemed like a wasted building,” said Royce. “I hope the community embraces the Ritz Complex.”