The two cities auditioning for the role of Broadway-style theater host are dismissing a Salt Lake County arts study as irrelevant.

According to a study by AMS Planning & Research, the area's Broadway theater needs already are being met by Abravanel Hall, Kingsbury Hall and the Rose Wagner Center. The cultural facilities master plan study was presented to the County Council on Tuesday.

County officials say the $300,000 study is useful, but the information will be utilized for long-range planning and does not include investigations into fiscal feasibility. Councilman Joe Hatch said the findings will be used to plan appropriately for making the best use of revenues earmarked for cultural facilities, currently accumulating in the Tourism, Recreation, Cultural and Convention (TRCC) fund.

A portion of tax revenues collected from tourist-related businesses like rental car companies, hotels and restaurants is directed to the TRCC account.

While the study's results will aid in county planning, Salt Lake City and suburban Sandy aren't putting too much stock in the findings.

Salt Lake City leaders also say the county-commissioned study won't keep the capital city from moving forward with the Utah Performance Center on Main, a proposed 2,400-seat theater capable of hosting first-run touring Broadway productions.

Salt Lake City plans to build the estimated $81.5 million theater on the former Newspaper Agency Corp. property at 135 S. Main and adjoining press site on Regent Street.

As of Wednesday afternoon, Mayor Ralph Becker hadn't seen the study, said Helen Langan, the mayor's spokeswoman. However, the consensus among city officials is the county study isn't a good indicator of the need for a Broadway-style theater in downtown Salt Lake City.

"It's important to keep in mind the county study looked exclusively at the needs for Salt Lake County," Langan said. "In contrast, the Utah Performance Center on Main is being planned with the needs of the entire state of Utah and, indeed, the region in mind."

Salt Lake County has been mentioned as a possible funding partner for the downtown theater, though the project's future hardly hinges upon its involvement. City officials are working to finalize a financing plan for the project, with results expected by the end of the year.

"We are continuing to move forward, working in concert with business, government and arts leaders across Utah to create a state-of-the-art regional cultural arts facility," Langan said.

In Sandy, a private developer plans to build the Proscenium — a $600 million mixed-use development that would include a 2,400-seat theater plus hotels, offices and residences. The project is expected to get public funding via city property tax deferrals.

The recent study's finding that the county shouldn't fund a large theater won't affect the project, said Scott Bond, the city's assistant chief administrative officer.

"Form our standpoint, we're fine with that," Bond said. "We haven't been asking for any funding."

Regardless of the outcome of the great theater race, Salt Lake County plans to support 15 arts facilities in the future, based on the findings of the master plan study.

The county will accept public comment on the master plan until Nov. 10. Thereafter, the council will release an executive summary and may prioritize the recommended projects.

Contributing: Arthur Raymond

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