When the Ross Ragland Theater opened its doors in March of 1989 with a local production of Meredith Willson’s The Music Man, it represented a culmination of community vision and dedication to advance the arts. Plans for a Klamath Falls Civic Center were first formulated in the late 1970s and fundraising efforts began in 1983. Hundreds of volunteers, led by Jean Pinniger and Joan Staunton, worked tirelessly to raise funds for the renovation. The project came dangerously close to failure when the owners of the Esquire Theater decided to demolish the building. The Founders of the local Community Lounge stepped forward to save the Esquire by purchasing and donating the building to the City of Klamath Falls in exchange for a permanent home in a portion of the renovated space. Renovation of the facility began in 1987.
The Jeld-Wen Foundation, Meyer Memorial Trust, Weyerhauser Company Foundation and Modoc Lumber Company provided the primary funding for the $2M project. Many local businesses and hundreds of individuals also made significant contributions to the project.
The theater’s namesake, Ross Ragland, was a prominent local civic leader and champion of the arts. Chairman of the campaign for the theater renovation, Mr. Ragland died in 1987, before the theater’s completion. The project leaders quickly moved to name the theater in honor of his memory and service.
In late 1989, nine months after it opened, The Ross Ragland Theater became a privately owned, not-for-profit corporation when it purchased the newly renovated facility from the City of Klamath Falls. Since that time it has operated as a privately owned and operated theater with continued support from public and private sources.