SANDY Broadway shows such as "Lion King" and "Wicked" may still make their Utah debuts in this city, but Sandy leaders said Tuesday that the city will not own the hosting theater nor will it run its operations.
Money that would have gone into a lease-to-own arrangement for the Proscenium theater will be spent on infrastructure for the $600 million project, which is expected to include office space, smaller arts venues, a spa and a high-end hotel. The project's developer will retain ownership of the 2,400-seat theater and will be charged with ensuring its profitability.
The new arrangement will leave the city without an ownership stake in the project but will also simplify Sandy's investment, leaving more of the responsibility in the hands of Orem-based developer Scott McQuarrie.
"It's advantageous in that we don't have to worry about the economics of the marketplace," said Sandy Council member Steve Fairbanks, who sat in on all the meetings between the city and the developer.
The change in plans was spurred by a City Council meeting about four weeks ago, where a few council members expressed concern about the city meddling in the private sector.
Under the new arrangement, the city can stick to doing what it knows best, said Sandy Assistant Chief Administrative Officer Scott Bond. The city has contributed infrastructure to several tax-increment financing project over the years but has no experience running big theaters, he said.
Sandy's spending on the Proscenium's infrastructure could total between $40 million and $60 million, said Sandy Economic Development Director Randy Sant.
The funds will be deferred from an increase in property tax generated by an expected increase in the property's value, with the expected increase being generated by improvements to the property.
The city could request a certain amount of free time for community-based arts organizations in return for the property-tax funding, Bond said. Sandy also expects the project will generate significant tax revenue over the years, which would help the city keep taxes low for residents while improving their quality of life.
Sandy had planned to operate the theater based on results of a feasibility study and trips to other cities that manage their own Broadway-style theaters.
But hopes were dampened when not one theater operator responded to a national request for proposals, issued by Sandy months ago.
Since then, leaders in Salt Lake City have announced plans for a publicly owned Broadway-style theater on Main Street, just blocks from Temple Square. The capital city already has an experienced theater operator on board but hasn't cemented plans for financing.
The original Sandy study found that the Salt Lake Valley could support only one Broadway-style theater. Another study by Salt Lake County found that current need for large theaters in the county is being met.
But Sandy leaders have held throughout the process that they're letting the private sector take the lead.
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