A new script is taking shape for a block west of Sandy City Hall. Now, a possible "world-class" aquarium is elbowing aside a mega-theater for center stage.

Last fall, Sandy bought eight of the 11 acres that were slated to give rise to The Proscenium, a $500 million, mixed-use development plotted near 10000 South east off Interstate 15. The property had gone into foreclosure, and the lead developer had dropped out.

For now, Sandy has given up its dream of being the first community in Utah with a Broadway-style playhouse. (Salt Lake City still is planning one on Main Street.)

"The Proscenium needs a new name, because it's not going to be a theater," Sandy Mayor Tom Dolan said Thursday during his annual State of the City address.

Instead, the mayor said, the city has been talking to The Living Planet Aquarium about building the nonprofit attraction a permanent home -- a 120,000-square-foot facility on the same spot that was slated for a Broadway stage. (Initially, about half that building shell would be used.) The aquarium has staged preview exhibits in temporary spaces since 2004: first at The Gateway in Salt Lake City and, since 2006, in Sandy at 725 E. 10600 South.

Salt Lake County declined to put a $34.5 million bond for the project on the 2006 ballot, but now the aquarium could get an assist from Sandy. First, the aquarium has to do a feasibility study and pin down the project's cost.

"We think there [are] mechanisms in place where we can make this happen," Dolan said, speaking to members of the Sandy Chamber of Commerce. "It would be wonderful for the community."

Dolan said the aquarium, in its current 43,000-square-foot space, already lands more visitors each year than were expected at a 2,400-seat theater. Last year, 330,000 people visited the aquarium -- up 38 percent from 2008. Dolan expects 500,000 to visit an expanded facility -- more than double the 200,000 to 250,000 projected to visit a Broadway playhouse.

"We want to build a world-class facility here in Utah," said Ronnie Daniel, development director for Living Planet. "The neat thing is the public have shown [through their attendance] that they want this."

Daniel said the aquarium would benefit from moving to the former theater location, which boasts I-15 visibility and access. Most exhibits could be relocated. If Sandy offers the space, Daniel said, the aquarium would raise $10 million to $12 million of private funds "to get going."

Dolan said Sandy still has visions of an arts center, but on a smaller scale. The city has dusted off old plans for a community theater adjacent to its outdoor amphitheater at 1245 E. 9400 South.

A Salt Lake County cultural-facilities master plan recommends up to three regional arts centers -- each featuring a 500-seat theater -- be built throughout the valley. Dolan said he has talked with Cottonwood Heights, Midvale and Draper to see if those cities would support a southeast facility in Sandy. Such a project would be a candidate for county funds.

"This may be the location," Dolan said, noting the city already owns the land. "If not, we still want to move forward with our concept."


Other highlights from Mayor Tom Dolan's State of Sandy City

Economy » Sandy's annual sales tax revenues are down from $20 million in 2007 to $17 million. But the city still has not touched its rainy-day fund -- about 12 percent of the general fund.

Development » "We have five or six [master plans] we are working on," the mayor said, "so when the economy turns around, we will not be sitting on the sidelines. We will be ready to go."

Residents' No. 1 concern » Road improvement and better traffic control, according to a Dan Jones & Associates survey. With upgrades planned on 1300 East and 700 East, and extensions set for TRAX and FrontRunner, Sandy will have the "best transportation system on the Wasatch Front," Dolan said.

Employment » Dolan sees Sandy and South Jordan as "satellite" employment centers to Salt Lake City. More than 2.7 million square feet of office space have been built in Sandy in the past decade, with at least a million more proposed in the future.