|Study: Cultural district could draw crowds, but not profits|
|Downtown SLC: A consultant says the district and its theaters could define the area as a place for the arts
|By Heather May |
The Salt Lake Tribune
Salt Lake Tribune
|A downtown Salt Lake City cultural district with two new theaters could draw up to a million patrons and generate between $12 million and $22 million in ticket sales annually, according to a consultant's study.
It wouldn't be a money-maker, however. It wouldn't even pay for itself and would require ongoing subsidies.
But it could be a viable way to define downtown as the place for arts.
"By focusing your assets in a cultural district you just create a critical mass of people," Thomas Hazinski, managing director of Chicago-based HVS International, told the city council Tuesday night. HVS was paid $40,000 to study the cultural district concept and it is presenting its final report this week.
"It creates a visitor attraction so that when people come to Salt Lake, there's an identity of an arts district," Hazinski said. HVS recommended the district include three black-box theaters with up to 125 seats each, studios, rehearsal space, classrooms, banquet space, a new mid-sized theater with up to 1,400 seats and a new large Broadway-style theater with up to 2,400 seats.
With the study showing demand for that large theater - there is unmet demand for more musical and other plays, some dance and possibly classical music - Salt Lake City should probably move quickly if it wants it downtown, said HVS's Hans Detlefsen.
"If you don't take the lead on this, some other suburban community may move a project forward," Detlefsen said after the meeting.
If the large theater is built in the suburbs, a cultural district wouldn't work, he said.
The consultants could not definitively say whether the cultural district will increase the net number of events and attendees in the capital, but Detlefsen believes it will.
It is clear the new theaters will compete with existing ones, particularly at the University of Utah. The U.'s Kingsbury Hall now hosts Broadway shows, and would have to redefine itself if new theaters are built, the consultants said.
The study said the now mothballed Utah Theater on Main Street could be renovated to be the mid-sized theater. The consultants estimate a $20 million renovation price tag, plus the unknown cost of buying the theater.
Projections show a mid-sized theater could host almost 180 events and draw 164,000 attendees. It could become the premiere venue for Utah Opera (now at Capitol Theatre) and Salt Lake Community College's Grand Theatre. It could also host high school events, Utah Symphony chamber music series, a new jazz concert series and dance performances, according to the study.
The large, $60 million theater is projected to host almost 170 performances, drawing 346,000 a year, for Ballet West's Nutcracker, concerts, family shows, Broadway musicals, popular operas and other special events.
The study also sees a need to renovate Capitol Theatre, reducing the seats from 1,800 to 1,500 to improve sightlines. That theater would remain Ballet West's home.
Leaders in Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County - which runs the public venues downtown and would likely run the new theaters - must now decide if they want to build the cultural district and, if so, how to pay for it.