Salt Lake City is facing competition from a familiar municipal nemesis in its bid to bring a Broadway-style performing arts theater to downtown.
Less then a year after attracting a Major League Soccer stadium away from the state's capital city, Sandy may be in position to do the same with a theater capable of booking Broadway shows.
A Utah County developer is proposing to build an office, condominium and retail complex near Sandy City Hall, with a 2,500-plus-seat theater as its anchor.
Though the plans are still conceptual, Mayor Tom Dolan said having such a facility in Sandy would be "very positive for our community and for Salt Lake County."
But it wouldn't bode well for Salt Lake City, where elected officials and community leaders envision a state-of-the-art performing arts theater as the cornerstone of a downtown arts, culture and entertainment district.
Studies have indicated that the state would be able to support only one facility, and Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson said it belongs in the capital city.
"We've already got the infrastructure, the arts and cultural institutions in the heart of the city," Anderson said. "Any urban planner would tell you that these facilities should be centralized."
The proposed new theater was identified in March as a signature project of Downtown Rising, the Salt Lake Chamber and Downtown Alliance's vision for downtown planning and redevelopment.
An arts and culture master plan is being drafted to move that vision forward, said Bruce Bingham, Downtown Alliance chairman.
Dolan said he doesn't have "a lot of confidence" in Salt Lake City's plans for a theater. He said those plans have been in the discussion phase for more than 20 years. Having one Broadway-style theater in the Salt Lake Valley is better than none, he said.
"I think everyone should be supportive of wherever you can build a new Broadway theater and bring more shows into the valley," he said.
Salt Lake County Councilman Joe Hatch said a study is under way that will answer many of the questions surrounding where a new performing arts theater should be located. That study is expected to be complete in summer 2008, Hatch said.
"I think (the theater) should it be in the capital city, but I'm willing to wait and see what the study says," he said. "If the study comes back and says Sandy city is just as appropriate, I'll support it there. But I think we need to wait for the expert studies to come in and help guide us in that decision."
Some Salt Lake City leaders are worried that Sandy's plans may progress faster than those of downtown, especially if the Utah Legislature gets involved and helps fund the Sandy project.
In February, the Legislature voted to give Real Salt Lake $35 million in hotel-tax dollars for land and parking at the Sandy stadium site. Salt Lake County Mayor Peter Corroon earlier had denied a similar deal, calling it a "risky investment."
Sandy officials have met with House Speaker Greg Curtis, R-Sandy, though no funding proposals have been discussed, said Chris Bleak, Curtis' chief of staff. Curtis is not planning to run legislation on the matter, Bleak said.Funding for a Broadway-style theater likely would include public money no matter where it's built.
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