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Cedar City • The largest gift in the Utah Shakespeare Festival's 51-year history has put the Tony Award- and Emmy Award-winning theater company within striking distance of the $26.5 million needed to build its new outdoor theater.
The Festival's Board of Governors and executive director R. Scott Phillips announced the $5 million gift from the Engelstad Family Foundation of Las Vegas Friday. The foundation was created by Ralph Engelstad, past owner of the Imperial Palace casino and hotel in Las Vegas.
"We are forever grateful to the foundation and the enthusiasm it has sparked in helping us to achieve our dream," Phillips said in a statement.
The festival unveiled plans for the new theater in February, after seven years of fundraising produced $18 million toward the needed total. One month after that announcement, Utah lawmakers announced a $500,000 allocation for construction of the new building. It was the largest one-time amount the festival had ever received from the state.
Phillips said at the time the festival originally requested $5 million from lawmakers for the new theater. The first request was based on studies showing the festival generated more than $35 million in annual economic activity for the state.
Construction on the new outdoor theater is set to begin in fall 2013, and will create some 300 construction jobs over the two-year building period. "The most significant impact of the new theater is that it will extend the festival theater season by 25 percent into the fall and winter months," Brian Vaughn, festival co-artistic director, said in February.
The new theater will be designed with a retractable roof, and will seat 900 people, which promoters say will draw an additional 30,000 patrons annually. It will be built two blocks east of the festival's iconic Adams Shakespearean Theatre, which will remain in operation during construction.
Once complete, it will add more than 80 seats over the 819 held by the festival's current outdoor Adams Shakespearean Theatre, built in the style of London's Globe Theatre. Located two blocks east of the Adams Shakespearean Theatre, the new theater on 200 West between Center Street and College Avenue will replicate the design of its current theater.
Michael T. Benson, president of Southern Utah University, which hosts the festival, said in a statement that the Englestad Family Foundation gift put the festival on the path to a bright future. "We are well on our way to ensuring that the festival's next 50 years will have a facility to match the quality of its productions."
Utah Shakespeare Festival's plans for dramatic new digs
What • A new $26.5 million Shakespearean theater, with construction to start in fall 2013, slated for completion in early 2015.
Where • Two blocks east of the Adams Shakespearean Theatre, on 200 West between Center Street and College Avenue, Cedar City.
Why • The existing Adams Shakespearean Theatre, weathered and weary since its 1977 completion, no longer accommodates either the festival's growing patronage or performing cast.
Features • The new theater will offer rest rooms on all three floors, large backstage dressing rooms for cast, heating and air conditioning, and a retractable roof that will extend the festival's performing season.