Bats Invade Council Bluffs Theater

One place that could really use some grant money Chanticleer Community Theater in Council Bluffs.

The theater was denied a grant from the Iowa West Foundation that would improve the facility and help take care of a problem with unwanted visitors.

The theater's production of "Footloose" opens this weekend.

And Chanticleer Theater is almost guaranteed a full house.

But theater lovers will comprise only part of the audience.

"It's kind of been the running joke here, you've never been bitten by a mosquito at Chanticleer," Manager Bob Putman said. "If we did Dracula every year it would be wonderful, but in the middle of hello dolly, it's a little bit disconcerting."

Putman has been here since 1978...that's almost as long as the bats living here.

They started appearing above stage when the theater was air conditioned in the early 1970s.

"They were not sealed properly and that's what allowed the bats to come in," Putman said. "They come down and they swoop around and we have some that live backstage."

They've never caused a real problem, Putman said theater-goers are used to seeing an occasional flying cameo appearance.

And there's no clear cut "bat time" for their stage entrance.

"Usually it's around 9 o'clock, some times it varies with the different type of lights we use. green light seems to attract them," he said.

Kris Rutz has had a few close up encounters with these phantoms at the opera.

"Many times focusing lights and you disturb them hit a light on them or something, they just come fly around and hit you in the face and try to attack you because you woke them up as they were trying to sleep," he said.

Bats are just part of the problem. What they leave behind is another concern.

Jack Price of Global Eco Services was spraying down seats in the auditorium.

"Because the avian pathogens that come from the bats," he said. "This disinfects everything and makes it safe and easy to live with."

The non-profit theater could solve the bat problem and save money by insulating the walls and ceiling. Putman said the theater's utility bill in January was $4,000. The theater's annual budget is $120,000.

Putman said a benefactor is needed to put up about half of the $318,000 for renovations.

"I'm looking for a Bruce Wayne," he said.

As for the bats, Putman said they don't want to kill or hurt them. The plan is to relocate the nocturnal gate crashers to three new bat homes.

A new "bat place" for them to go so the show can go on.

Putman said they're looking at sonar devices that would attract the bats to their new homes.

"Footloose" at Chanticleer opens Friday night running through May 30th.

Shows Fridays and Saturdays begin at 7:30 pm and Sundays at two

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