Tom Dolan has never met a prom date he didn't want to steal.
Sandy's mayor is Biff to Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker's George McFly. In a "Back to the Future" storyline worthy of Michael J. Fox, the rivals are sparring over a Broadway theater - the flustered girl Dolan is trying to strong-arm into a kiss and perhaps something more.
Like any blustery bully, Dolan throws his hands up and says, "What?" when confronted with his city's zero-sum economic development strategy. It's not his fault Seven Peaks developer Scott McQuarrie wants to build a 2,500-seat, $50 million theater in the burbs, miles away from Salt Lake City's cultural district and the four- and five-star hotels and restaurants theatergoers frequent.
"The developer wants to build it here. He came to us with that plan," says Sandy city spokeswoman Trina Duerksen. "We can't say no. We can't tell the developer what to build and what not to build."
The only problem with the innocent act is: We've seen Dolan groping Salt Lake City's girl before.
In four terms in office, the Sandy mayor's best ideas for economic stimulus seem to originate in the capital - the "Other Downtown" campaign, an Olympic ice hockey stadium (West Valley City outsmarted both Salt Lake City and Sandy on that one), the Salt Palace redux/expo center, a professional soccer stadium and, now, a Broadway theater Salt Lake City and Salt Lake County leaders have been talking about for years.
"For cultural tourism to exist, it needs to have some density," says Phil Jordan, director of Salt Lake County's Center for the Arts, which manages the Rose Wagner Center, Abravanel Hall and Capitol Theatre. "Downtown already has a clustering of great theaters. It would make a lot of sense to me to build it downtown.
"But timing seems to be everything," Jordan says. Because Dolan is thinking only about No. 1.
While other Salt Lake County business and government leaders are studying the best location for a Broadway theater, Dolan is hoping to snatch a bigger venue for "Wicked" and "The Lion King" out from under his slower, more cerebral colleagues and make thinking about it moot. McQuarrie will present his plans to Sandy in a month. Ground will be broken next to Target and Sweet Tomatoes before the rest of the county reaches an answer to the larger question.
McFly is fighting back. This morning Becker has scheduled a roundtable with reporters to talk about possible downtown locations for the theater.
Worried about how their poaching might look, some Sandy City Council members pointed to Chicago as proof that two theaters can thrive in the Wasatch. But Dolan acknowledges reality.
"There's only going to be one built," he said last week. "The market's not big enough to support two."
Why stop with a Broadway theater? Why not build a bigger, better Temple Square in the middle of the valley? Plop down a new symphony hall next to Wal-Mart. While you're at it, build a replica of the Globe Theater and lure the Shakespearean Festival away from Cedar City. No doubt, Dolan's go-to guys in the legislature - House Speaker Greg Curtis and Sen. Wayne Niederhauser, both myopic Sandy residents - eventually will sponsor legislation to change the state capital itself.
In Dolan's world, everything is up for grabs. And the bottom line is his city's bottom line.