Artists drawing courtesy of Scott Vandyke, ASWN+
Davis County commissioners have agreed to look for a way to help finance construction of the proposed South Davis Performing Arts Center /— shown in an artist's rendering /— in Centerville. It is expected to cost $15 million and include a 500-seat main stage theater.

FARMINGTON — Davis County commissioners have agreed to look for a way to help fund the construction of a $15 million performing-arts center in Centerville.

They're not promising how much funding could be directed toward what will be known as the South Davis Performing Arts Center, which may break ground in 2009, but they said it will likely be less than the $2 million being sought.

Centerville Mayor Ron Russell told commissioners Tuesday that $10 million is available right now to build a 500-seat main-stage theater for the center. But the vision is much more than that, he said.

Ideally, the center also would have rehearsal space and a black-box theater, Russell said, adding that the center, as a complete package, could become an economic generator in Davis County.

Centerville's retail district, along Parrish Lane, is performing well for the city, but it may not perform well forever, Russell said.

"In order to keep that area vital, you need to add an entertainment component," he said.

Kent Sulser, the county's manager of economic development, said the county could likely provide funding through its business-development fund.

Another possibility is using the county's tourism fund, which already has most of its funds committed, but commissioners could change those commitments if they decide the center is a priority. Ideally, Sulser said, the theater could generate $180,000 a year in tax revenue for the county.

All three commissioners said they recognized the value of the project, but they said they needed to determine if it made sense for the county to participate in it.

Russell said he was asking not only for the county's blessing but for some funding as well, because philanthropic foundations like to help projects that appear to be supported by the community at large. Theater backers have met with various foundations and hope to secure $3 million in donations in exchange for naming rights for the center, said Bill Davies, president of the South Davis Cultural Arts Association, which will likely manage the center once it's built.

Commissioner Alan Hansen said he would not support funding the theater through any fund reserves, because the economic outlook is volatile right now, and fund reserves could be needed in an emergency. Bountiful resident Ron Mortensen, co-founder of CitizensForTaxFairness.org, said Russell and Bountiful Mayor Joe Johnson, whose cities passed a RAP (recreation, arts and parks) sales tax in 2007 to help fund the center's construction, should focus on a private fundraising effort instead of trying to fund the project through more public money.

Mortensen called the center a "nice-to-have" project and said both mayors should be looking at ways to make the center a true community project while striving to ease tax burdens on residents.


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