|SLC theater study lists top sites, says financing 'practical and achievable'|
|By Rosemary Winters |
The Salt Lake Tribune
Salt Lake Tribune
|Article Last Updated:07/15/2008 06:16:00 AM MDT|
|If Salt Lake City wants to stage "Rent" on a big Broadway-style stage, it had better buy.
Utah's capital should act "immediately" to lock up one of six suggested sites for a 2,400-seat theater, Mayor Ralph Becker's Downtown Theater Action Group urged in a report released Monday.
"Now, it's up to us as a city to take this report and run with it," Becker said.
The report wraps up a 4 1/2 -month sprint to find a home for a grand theater downtown and determine whether such a project is feasible - financing would be "practical and achievable," the report stated.
Bill Becker, a Tony-award-winning producer and the mayor's brother, captained the 30-member committee pro bono.
"It's just essential that this theater be constructed and that it be constructed in the heart of [Salt Lake City]," Bill Becker said. The playhouse, he noted, would be a "spark plug" igniting arts development throughout Utah.
The top four recommended sites are:
* The old Utah Theater on Main Street.
* The former Newspaper Agency Corp. headquarters on Main Street.
* A parking lot east of Squatters Pub Brewery across 300 South from the Rose Wagner Performing Arts Center.
* A parking lot behind the Peery Hotel, 110 W. 300 South, and next to Rose Wagner.
The report also suggests:
* Land in the planned Camden Centre development between 100 South and 200 South and 500 West and 600 West.
* A 3-acre parcel north of the Grand America Hotel, 555 S. Main St.
Ralph Becker and City Council Chairwoman Jill Remington Love support launching negotiations with all of the top four. That strategy would help the city snatch the best deal, Bill Becker said.
The theater committee estimates construction of the venue, one capable of landing first runs of mega-hits such as "The Lion King" and "Wicked," would cost $64 million. The total cost, including design fees and land, could approach $80 million, but the group still is crunching a final number.
"We've talked about [the theater] for at least eight years," Love said. "It's time to move on it."
The capital kicked into high gear in the hunt for a large playhouse after Sandy touted its plans to snag such a venue near 10000 South and Interstate 15. There, an Orem-based developer plots a $50 million-plus Broadway-style theater as part of a $560 million mixed-use project called The Proscenium.
Sandy has said it would buy the theater in a lease-to-own arrangement. Mayor Tom Dolan has noted that his suburb's plan is further along - with a site already identified and a builder in place.
It's unlikely Utah's market could support two such theaters.
"As a Broadway producer of [touring shows] . . . I can tell you where I'd go," Bill Becker said, insisting Salt Lake City has superior offerings when it comes to hotels, restaurants and other cultural amenities.
Salt Lake City's theater group envisions the Broadway-style theater as an anchor to a bustling cultural district, one that would draw out-of-state visitors, touring high school groups and college students seeking performing-arts workshops.
Financing could include $16 million of federal New Market Tax Credits and a city-designated Community Development Area, a redevelopment tool that would allow new property and sales taxes hatched downtown to help fund the theater. City Creek Center alone, the report noted, is expected to spawn $18 million a year in new sales taxes starting in 2012.
Other revenue streams could include facility fees, ticket surcharges, naming rights, corporate sponsorships and net operating income. The theater committee cautions that any funding for the new stage should not take away from existing cultural facilities.
* Salt Lake Tribune Publisher Dean Singleton and contributor Celia R. Baker are members of the Downtown Theater Action Group.
A grand theater in Salt Lake City would:
* Draw 175,000 patrons and generate $11 million in ticket sales annually for touring Broadway attractions alone.
* Generate $22 million a year in direct and indirect spending by attendees of Broadway shows.
* Attract about 15 percent of its patrons of Broadway acts from outside Utah.
* Sell tickets, on average, for $62.85 apiece.
* Employ 12 full-time employees and a number of part-time workers.
* Include a black-box theater and sizable rehearsal space that could be used by arts and university groups.
* Present musical theater, ballet, opera, popular entertainment acts, comedy, concerts, convention-related events and religious programs.
Source: Recommendations of the Downtown Theater Action Group