Sandy lifts curtain on theater

City has both funding and developer in place

By Rebecca Palmer
Deseret Morning News
Published: February 20, 2008
SANDY — Preliminary plans are in place here for a Broadway Roadhouse theater that would open in 2011.

Sandy has been studying the issue for about a year and a half and has the funding in place for a development near 10100 South and 250 West that would include a theater.

"We have a project that is ready to get under way, and we have a developer to do it," said Sandy Mayor Tom Dolan.

In addition to the theater, the project will include 850,000 square feet of office space, 600 high-rise condominiums and 300,000 square feet of retail and entertainment space, according to documents made public Tuesday.

A feasibility study for the theater prepared by New-York based Webb Management Services. Inc. was publicly released during a Tuesday city council meeting. The study found that a Broadway theater would be feasible anywhere in the Salt Lake Valley.

During the meeting, Councilman Stephen Smith expressed concern that the study did not compare Sandy to other areas of the valley, especially in light of the fact that Salt Lake County is in the process of commissioning a feasibility study on that issue.

"There's going to be an argument made that location is the factor," he said. "I don't want to get in a spitting match with the county."

The county study is planned to determine whether a Broadway theater should even be built.

If that study finds a theater would work, it would then identify the best place to build, Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon said.

Corroon said he'd build the theater in Sandy, if the county study said that's the best place to build.

Dolan and Sandy City Assistant Manager reassured Smith that they weren't trying to battle the county, but were excited to move forward based on the fact that they had been approached by a developer. Both said they'd be willing to work with the county.

"I believe that there could be a theater in both (downtown Salt Lake City and Sandy) and both of them could be successful," added Councilman Bryant Anderson, who took a trip to Chicago to see competing Broadway theaters there.

The theater to be built in Sandy could seat between 2,500 and 2,800 guests, according to Sandy's study. It is expected to be a profit-making enterprise not subsidized by taxpayers.

Sandy first considered supporting a theater when it was approached by Utah County developer Scott McQuarrie in 2006, Dolan said. The city was concerned about finding funding but has done its homework and learned that the developer is capable of building the theater himself, Dolan said.

The theater will be partially funded by property tax money it is allowed to keep. It may also receive funds from the sale of naming rights.

"We've done our due diligence," Bond said.

The city plans to hire a theater operator this summer, Bond said. A request for proposals was published Tuesday. The operator will help with additional feasibility and budgeting studies Sandy plans to conduct.

"But we're still in the process of evaluating it at all," Bond told the council. "It is still is a work in process. We're not to a point yet that we have anything in place."

The study recommends that two theaters and a multipurpose room be built as part of the 150,000-square-foot theater structure. The theater could cost about $50 million, and the surrounding development may cost around $500 million.

If built, the theater could host touring Broadway productions, various music performances and shows for children and families such as Blues Clues, Sesame Street Live and The Wiggles, according to Tuesday's study.

Based on projections that two-thirds of available tickets will be sold, the theater is expected to make $23,222 in its first year with 115 performances in the large theater and 200 performances in the small theater.

In subsequent years, the theater is expected to make more than $300,000. It is also expected to bring 135 new jobs to the Sandy area and bring in $2.4 million in new spending to the county.

Attendance rates were calculated using national studies and local demographic information. The national studies found about 1/3 of adults participate in the arts but that number is declining.

A local study cited in the Webb report found that 84 percent of adults in Utah have attended a dance or music concert, art show, museum, zoo or dramatic presentation at some point in their lives. Of those, 42 percent had done so within six months.

A majority of those surveyed were active members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, and a third had household incomes higher than $75,000.

"I think Utah is among the highest for the arts," Dolan said. "I think (a theater) would be a wonderful thing for the Sandy community and a good thing for the Wasatch Front."

Contributing: Leigh Dethman