SANDY - Some Sandy City Council members would like to drop the curtain on plans to turn a bigger-than-Broadway theater into a public facility.
    In the great race between Sandy and Salt Lake City to build Utah's first mega-playhouse - one capable of landing first run blockbusters such as "The Lion King" - Sandy has boasted an edge. The southern Salt Lake Valley suburb has a developer willing to build a 2,700-seat theater as part of a $560 million to $671 million mixed-use project dubbed The Proscenium.
    Sandy Mayor Tom Dolan and his administration have offered to buy the $55 million playhouse through a lease-to-own agreement, but the details have yet to be reached.
    Councilman Stephen Smith said this week that calling the theater privately funded is "just semantics" because Sandy ultimately would be paying off the developer's loan.
    Smith backs The Proscenium and the playhouse, but he wants "every [tax] dollar" from the "cash cow" to flow to the city's coffers.
    With the economic downturn, he noted, Sandy already is struggling to fund two new community centers and could be weighing a property-tax hike next year to balance the budget.
    Councilwoman Linda Martinez Saville also expressed misgivings about using public funds to buy a theater. And Council Chairman Scott Cowdell worried that the council has not been properly informed about Sandy's participation in the mega-theater. He called the playhouse's price tag "staggering."
    "I am not convinced it's the right thing to do to put that kind of money into it."
    Sandy Economic Development Director Randy Sant has proposed that the city tap an existing redevelopment area and use new property taxes generated by The Proscenium - about $2.4 million a year - to cover a lease of the theater. Sandy would be responsible for hiring an operator and, at the end of the lease, the city would own the venue.
    "The project doesn't happen without the theater," Sandy Mayor Tom Dolan told the council in pushing the case for public funds.
    Developer Curtis Wolthuis, a principal of Orem-based Proscenium Development Inc., said, after this week's meeting, that the show would go on either way. The Proscenium and the theater "still happen," he added, without the city's help.
    Even so, a four-member council majority embraced Sandy's theater plan.
    The Proscenium "will be huge," Councilman Chris McCandless said. Plans call for three, 30- to 40-story office, condo and hotel towers to sprout near 10000 South and Interstate 15.
    He recalled Sandy's decade-old advertising campaign of being the Salt Lake Valley's "other downtown."
    "This truly will bring it to pass," he said. "I like the concept. I like the way it's being funded."