In 1997, Margaret K. Peterson, then a West Valley City Council member, didn’t hesitate to vote for a proposal that city bond to help build the Hale Centre Theatre.
She was confident the theater would pay back the $4.3 million in bonds through its rent on the building (it will by the time its lease runs out at the end of 2016) and would be successful (it is, with its shows selling out consistently).
Now, Peterson says she’s “personally devastated” that Hale officials decided to move to Sandy, where they plan to build a $65 million, three-stage venue that will have triple the seats of its current theater.
“What a tremendous loss to West Valley City,” Peterson said, who acknowledges she feels a little betrayed.
West Valley City officials have said they’re disappointed about the move but wish Hale well. And three of Peterson’s colleagues on the City Council in 1997 also say they’re sorry that Hale is leaving.
“I’m extremely disappointed that they made that choice because West Valley made an incredible proposal to them,” said former councilwoman turned legislator Janice Fisher, D-West Valley City.
Russ Brooks said West Valley residents were proud to have the theater in their city and the planned move “leaves kind of a hole.” Barbara Thomas said the city, which had helped Hale move from a much smaller venue in South Salt Lake to its current site in the 1990s, seemed willing to work with theater officials again.
“My feeling was that this was a very good location for people to come both from the north and south,” she said.
When theater representatives began plans to expand, West Valley offered a new lease agreement on the current building at 3333 S. Decker Lake Drive, and the city Redevelopment Agency went into escrow on an adjacent 15-acre parcel that it proposed as the site for the expanded venue.
But after months of negotiations, the city halted talks Feb. 6, saying it had been unable to persuade Hale to accept the deal. A few weeks later, Hale and Sandy representatives announced the theater was expanding at 9950 Monroe St., just east of Interstate 15.
West Valley has not decided whether to go through with buying the Decker Lake Drive parcel, which is owned by Carmike Cinemas and includes the Hollywood Connection Entertainment Center. The price is $7 million, and the purchase agreement required a $100,000 nonrefundable deposit.
City Manager Wayne Pyle has said that other options for the property include a commercial or mixed-use project. Council members voted unanimously in December to authorize preparation of a plan for an Entertainment District Community Development Area (CDA) along Decker Lake Drive, which would allow the use of tax increment — the taxes generated from the increased assessed value of a property within the area — to provide infrastructure and to promote expansion at the site.
Sal Jannson, a performance artist and former member of West Valley’s Arts Council, said she doesn’t like that Hale is leaving after the city contributed so much to it. She thinks the current location is good and that people are willing to travel there to watch the plays.
Longtime West Valley resident Kevin Fayles also would like Hale to stay.
“I think it’s unfortunate the theater is leaving, especially since we’ve had a strong cultural heritage of drama in Utah since pioneer times,” he said. “I’m sure the Hale Theatre has touched thousands of schoolchildren in the city, too.”
Another local resident, Gene Garcia, who lives near the property, worries about what will happen to the site after Hale completes its move. Getting a new tenant could be difficult, he said.
“My concern is that it becomes another albatross that sits empty for a while because it’s a speciality building,” Garcia said.
Mayor Mike Winder, though, is optimistic that the city will easily find a new tenant and said West Valley is already getting inquiries about it.
“We’ll miss Hale Centre Theatre, but when their lease is up in 2016, we’ll have a beautiful building that is paid off,” he said.
P Hale Centre Theatre is one of the most successful community theaters in the nation, but the directors have asked the Legislature for more money. Some people are questioning if the request is appropriate. On Sunday, The Tribune takes a look at the salaries of Hale’s top administrative staff and how much taxpayer money the theater already receives.