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O.C. Tanner gift to upgrade Abravanel Hall lounge

Published July 22, 2014 8:15 pm

Cultural facilities • County Council also shifts money for Eccles Theatre preparations.
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There isn't any shag rug in there, but the Tanner Lounge backstage at Abravanel Hall hasn't been remodeled since it debuted in the 1970s.

So a $50,000 gift from the O.C. Tanner Foundation, for whom the resting room was named, was welcomed warmly Tuesday by the Salt Lake County Council.

"This will take it from the '70s to the 2000s," said county Community Services Director Erin Litvack, adding the alterations will make the room more functional for stagehands as well as performers.

The Abravanel Hall donation was one of several items before the council Tuesday involving the downtown cultural scene.

Most of the discussion involved the county's evolving relationship with Salt Lake City in preparations for building the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Theater on east Main Street between 100 South and 200 South.

A split council approved Litvack's request to redistribute some money to pay for staff assistance and a consultant to help the county navigate the intricacies of developing a $110 million to $117 million facility with another government entity and its redevelopment agency.

"It's more complex than it sounds to make it integrated and work holistically," Litvack said.

As manager of the 2,500-seat megatheater, the county set aside $1 million to pay for things that must be done before the theater's scheduled opening in the spring of 2016.

Responsibility for keeping an eye over those numerous matters rests with a committee known as the Utah Performing Arts Center Agency, a name that reflects the theater's designation prior to the Eccles' donation. The UPACA board has representatives from both the county and the city.

"We're a board with a lot of responsibility," said County Councilman Max Burdick, one of the county's representatives. "We need some staff support."

These early UPACA meetings made it clear, Litvack added, that the time is now — rather than 2015, as budgeted — to start booking Broadway-style shows for the theater's first years. She needed council approval to move $31,000 into an account to hire a sales and marketing manager six months earlier than planned.

In addition, Litvack asked the council to reallocate another $40,000 to acquire additional consulting services from Steven Wolff of AMS Planning & Research Corp. in Southport, Conn. He has helped guide county staff through steps of the project, she said. His services are still needed.

The council approved all of the requests, over the objections of councilmen Steve DeBry and Richard Snelgrove. They have opposed county spending on the megatheater since the issue arose.

"I will be a nay to be consistent in my opposition to UPAC [the theater's old acronym]," said DeBry, a Republican from South Jordan, adding Tuesday's requests reinforced his fears. "It's growing more and we're adding FTEs [full-time employees] at taxpayer expense."

Responded Democrat Jim Bradley: "We've [already] invested taxpayer money and now we want it to succeed."


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