Not so fast, Sandy.

Perhaps sensing that Salt Lake City is falling behind in the race to bring a Broadway-style theater to Utah, Mayor Ralph Becker has called a press conference for 10:30 a.m. today to announce the capital city's plans for such a venue downtown.

Becker also is expected to appoint a leader to spearhead Salt Lake City's Broadway theater development plan.

Salt Lake City's press event comes a little more than a week after Sandy city officials made public its preliminary plans for a Broadway theater, complete with a funding model and a feasibility study supporting the suburban city's cause.

Sandy wants to build a 2,500-plus-seat theater as part of an office, condominium and retail complex near Sandy City Hall. The city plans to hire a theater operator this summer, with 2011 as the target date for its opening.

Sandy's plans clash with those of 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.

"It would be a positive thing for the state, but frankly I think a true Broadway theater belongs downtown (as part of an arts district,)" said Carlton Christensen, Salt Lake City Council vice chairman. "Having those cultural elements together is important."

Studies indicate that the state would be able to support only one such facility, city and county officials have said.

Sandy Mayor Tom Dolan said his city began considering a theater only after being approached by a developer willing to pay for most of the project.

Sandy isn't trying to compete with other theater projects, Dolan said, but the city does not want to turn away an anxious developer. The mayor said he believes the proposed Sandy Broadway Roadhouse Theater would benefit the entire Salt Lake Valley.

A Broadway-style theater in downtown Salt Lake City has been in the works for several years, though officials have been more focused on making that a reality for the past three months, said Bob Farrington, executive director of the Downtown Alliance, the nonprofit arm of the Salt Lake Chamber.

A performing arts center for touring Broadway productions was proposed nearly a year ago as a signature project of Downtown Rising, the Salt Lake Chamber and Downtown Alliance's vision for downtown planning and development.

A study done in 1997 indicated that the Salt Lake Valley likely would be ripe to support a Broadway theater in about 10 years, and city leaders have been following that game plan, Farrington said.

Sandy's plans, he said, have little to do with the timetable for a downtown performing arts center.

"We're pressing forward with our plans, which have been very carefully analyzed," Farrington said. "We can't be distracted by what may be thought of elsewhere. Those ideas come and go, and we can't control that. All we can do is push our agenda forward."

Christensen said he believes Becker, not Sandy, is the reason plans for a downtown theater have intensified in recent months.

The mayor highlighted in his first State of the City address Jan. 15 the creation of a downtown cultural district, development of a Broadway-style performing arts center and preservation of the Utah Theatre as high priorities for his administration.

"I think (Becker) has just decided that if it's going to get done, it's going to need his emphasis," Christensen said.

Salt Lake County is in the process of commissioning a feasibility study to determine the best location for a Broadway-style theater.

The study for the Sandy theater determined that a Broadway theater would be feasible anywhere in the Salt Lake Valley, but it didn't compare the suburban city with other areas of the valley.


Contributing: Rebecca Palmer

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