|Salt Lake City: Our theater will be on Main|
|Sandy is still pressing its own playhouse plans; county yet to weigh in|
|By Rosemary Winters|
The Salt Lake Tribune
Salt Lake Tribune
|Article Last Updated:10/16/2008 12:39:52 AM MDT|
|Salt Lake City plans to bring Broadway to Main Street.
Utah's capital has picked the former Newspaper Agency Corp. building between 100 South and 200 South as the spot for a 2,400-plus-seat Broadway-style theater. The site, just north of the former Salt Lake Tribune tower, also has a rear entrance on Regent Street.
The city has entered into "exclusive negotiations" with the private development arm of the LDS Church to buy the property, city spokeswoman Helen Langan said Wednesday.
Mayor Ralph Becker, along with Gov. Jon Huntsman Jr. and LDS Church Presiding Bishop H. David Burton, plans to make a formal announcement today.
"Our downtown is the right place for a theater of this size," said Salt Lake City Council Chairwoman Jill Remington Love.
In Sandy, an Orem-based developer plans to erect a 2,700-seat Broadway-style playhouse near 10000 South and Interstate 15. Sandy could buy the $55 million theater - scheduled to debut in September 2011 - with redevelopment funds through a long-term, lease-to-own agreement.
Mayor Tom Dolan, who has said only one mega-theater will be built, was unfazed by Salt Lake City's announcement.
"We're not giving a lot of thought to what Salt Lake decides to do," he said. "We're working on our own project."
Salt Lake City's playhouse - expected to cost $81.5 million - also would be at least partially funded through redevelopment dollars, Love said. In addition, the city could collect ticket surcharges, sell naming rights and tap up to $18 million in federal tax credits.
The site was selected from four potential properties, including the old Utah Theater across the street.
"We were lucky," Love said, "to have options and, at the end of the day, this was the best option."
Rick Howa, owner of Main Street's Utah Theater, expressed disappointment.
"God, I miss Rocky [Anderson]," he said, referring to Salt Lake City's former mayor. Howa suggested his property could be razed to provide parking for the Broadway theater.
"They're going to need it," he said.
Bill Becker, the first-year mayor's Tony-award-winning brother who led the capital's theater search, called the city's pick a "wonderful site," providing a connection between the LDS Church's City Creek Center project and downtown's south end.
"The theater is really supposed to be a catalyst for further development of downtown," he said.
It could open as soon as 2012. Timing-wise that gives Sandy the lead. Most observers agree only one mega-playhouse can thrive in the Salt Lake Valley.
Salt Lake County could play the role of decider - it has a study due out early next month that will evaluate theater sites - if it steps in with funding or as an operator. Currently, the county hosts touring Broadway musicals at the Capitol Theatre in Salt Lake City.
A new playhouse could hurt both the Capitol and Kingsbury Hall, which also stages Broadway shows, said John Caywood, Kingsbury's operations manager.
Losing those productions would cut a $600,000 hole into Kingsbury's annual budget, he said. "I don't think there is enough programming that can be done in this new theater to make it economically viable - even with the Broadway [acts]."
He questioned why Salt Lake City is moving ahead before the county's study comes out.
County Councilman Jim Bradley said there's no question a downtown location is "most appropriate." It makes sense, he said, to cluster cultural-arts venues.
But his colleague David Wilde would prefer a draw in any competition for public funds.
"I haven't seen anything so far that convinces me that we need a Broadway theater in Salt Lake City or Sandy."
* ROXANA ORELLANA and JEREMIAH STETTLER contributed to this story.
Salt Lake City will unveil details about its theater plans today at 1:30 p.m. from the Main Street site selected for the venue.