This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2008, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.
If you want the pop and sizzle of bright lights in the big city, you need a big theater. Or to put it another way, if Salt Lake City hopes to attract first-run touring companies of blockbuster Broadway shows, with the roar of the crowds and the jingle of cash they would bring downtown, it needs to build a 2,400-seat playhouse.
That's pretty much the synopsis of a report by the Downtown Theater Action Group, which has identified six possible sites for the new theater. Of the six, two on Main Street between 100 South and 200 South hold the most promise, because they would build on the momentum of the massive City Creek Center now under construction immediately to the north. The new theater would anchor Main Street and downtown as the state's premier entertainment destination.
Mayor Ralph Becker and other community leaders are right that a state-of-the-art theater large enough to attract touring productions of shows like "The Lion King" and "Wicked" is the next logical act in the drama of downtown redevelopment. Butts in the seats and shoes on the pavement equal dollars in local pockets. The Downtown Theater Action Group, a committee appointed by the mayor and headed by his brother, Bill, himself a Broadway producer, is also right that the theater would draw tourists from the region and multiply spending in restaurants and hotels.
In addition, the revenues generated from touring shows could, if wisely managed, help to subsidize the theater and, perhaps, local productions. The committee identifies possible revenue sources, from sales tax increments to federal New Market Tax Credits, that could help finance the project. Because the state and county governments also would benefit from the sales tax revenues, they should help to foot the bill.
It won't come cheap. The theater is estimated to cost some $64.1 million for design and construction in 2008 dollars. Total project budget would be $81.5 million, including a 10 percent inflation factor.
But before you can put up a theater, you've got to buy some real estate. To our eyes, the best site is located on the east side of Main north of the old Tribune Building at 143 S. Main. It offers both Main Street frontage and load-in access from Regent Street. By way of disclosure, that site adjoins this newspaper's former home, which is still owned by MediaNews Group, and its redevelopment as a theater could enhance the value of the Tribune Building.
But whatever site ultimately is chosen, the city needs to act now to put financing in place and acquire it. It's the next logical step to keep downtown rising.