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Sandy mayor endorses Becker's Broadway-class theater

Published January 6, 2012 7:47 am

Arts • Dolan, who sought suburban playhouse, praises the Salt Lake City mayor's "bold vision."
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

They are cultural combatants no more.

Sandy Mayor Tom Dolan has offered a Broadway-class bow to his Salt Lake City counterpart, Ralph Becker, conceding an end to the competing cities' four-year fight to be first to build a mega-theater.

In a letter sent to Becker last month, Dolan praises the capital's mayor for showing perseverance in pursuing a Utah Performing Arts Center and pledges his endorsement of the planned playhouse.

"I congratulate you, and the Salt Lake City Council, for your bold vision in recognizing the significance of not only reinforcing past commitments to the arts and culture but taking the next step to firmly establish the prominence of Salt Lake City as the cultural and artistic center of the Intermountain West," Dolan writes. "When Sandy City was investigating the potential for a Broadway-style theater, it was our assessment that there is need for such a theater and in the long term its impact would increase the patronage of all arts organizations. Again, I congratulate you for your leadership and extend my full support of the Utah Performing Arts Center."

The gracious tone stands in contrast to the verbal volleys Dolan heaved back in 2008, when it looked like the suburb had a private developer lined up to build such a theater. Back then, Sandy and Salt Lake City engaged in what seemed like a breakneck game of chicken.

"There's only room for one Broadway-style theater," Dolan declared at the time. "We've been working on this project for six to eight months, and Salt Lake has been discussing this project for 15 to 20 years. We're ready to move."

Of course, the economy tanked, pouring water on a developer's plan to erect a $50 million theater as an anchor to a $500 million office, residential and retail complex just southwest of Sandy City Hall.

Becker, who has made the theater a top priority since taking office four years ago, has engaged in years of public outreach, market study and sales pitches to established arts groups.

In December, he won approval from the City Council to spend $18 million on design for the $110 million playhouse — planned for Main Street's east side between 100 South and 200 South.

Some remain skeptical about the theater's ultimate success and many arts groups worry it could cannibalize their audience. Still, Becker's senior adviser says the mayor's team was pleased to get Dolan's letter.

"He originally approached us to say he was supportive of it, and we were thrilled," explained Helen Langan. "This has dual significance. It reinforces the notion we have about the project, which is that it will serve everyone statewide."

djensen@sltrib.com

Musicals on Main

Salt Lake City will launch the design this year of a $110 million Broadway touring theater, with 2,500 seats, that is poised to revitalize Main Street between 100 South and 200 South.