After more than two years of deliberations and tentative agreements over where to expand Hale Centre Theatre, the show must go on — in Sandy.
The theater will leave its West Valley City location, with a lease ending December 2016, and move to Utah's sixth-largest city.
Sandy officials will sign contracts with Beecher Walker Architects and Layton Construction this week to finalize the deal.
Hale CEO Mark Dietlein, who announced the decision Wednesday, said the past 18 years in West Valley have been a "marvelous journey," but he looks forward to the expansion. The new $56 million theater, just off 10000 South on Monroe Street, will feature two stages, a large 900-seat round and a smaller 450-seat thrust, for a combined 1,350 seats. Dietlein said the space in West Valley, which has just 613 spots, often hits capacity.
"At any of our hit shows, we turn away literally thousands of people who cannot get in," because tickets are sold out, he said.
Another impetus for the move is the exposure and accessibility with the Sandy facility. Located just east of Interstate 15, Dietlein envisions large marquees drawing in visitors, who mostly travel from the south end of the Salt Lake Valley.
"Being right on the freeway is tremendous," he said. "There won't be anyone in the state who doesn't know where Hale Centre Theatre is and what's playing."
Construction will begin in September. The smaller stage is set to open in January 2017, and the full project will be completed around May that year. The state also will add a new underpass to the freeway exit on 10600 South to serve the theater's patrons.
To pay for the new space, Sandy has taken out a $42 million bond, which will be repaid by Hale over time. The city will own the theater until the bond is paid off, in about 27 years, when Hale will have a chance to take over the space.
Sandy Mayor Tom Dolan said it's a risk he feels comfortable with. "We're confident that this will work," he said. "We've worked for a long time to get through this."
Hale had previously made arrangements with Sandy to house the theater in February 2013, but the plans fell through. Dolan said he was "frustrated" at the time, but now believes the stage is better set for the new facility. He calls Hale a "key piece" of the puzzle he's putting together that involves revitalizing Sandy with a new city plaza, more high-density housing, a renovated South Towne Mall and, now, a place for the arts.
The theater will take up about 130,000 square feet on an 11.5-acre parcel to soon include office spaces and a parking garage that will serve theater-goers in the evenings.
Dietlein said board members have discussed moving Hale for the past six years. Originally, 15 communities and cities were in the running, including South Jordan – the last city to be taken off the list in June 2014. The group also considered staying in West Valley City, the state's second largest city, but decided against that.
"The opportunity that presented itself with Sandy city just simply made a lot more sense for us than any other location that we looked at," he said.
West Valley City Manager Wayne Pyle said the city has known of Hale's departure for some time, and is looking at proposals for different ways to use the city-owned facility.
"We've got some good prospects," he said.
All of the current bids under consideration are theater-related, and it will take several months before the city chooses a new partner.
West Valley City Mayor Ron Bigelow could not immediately be reached for comment.
The West Valley theater attracts an average of 270,000 visitors per year, providing 75 percent of the nonprofit company's yearly revenue (the other 25 percent comes from ZAP tax funds and donations).
Dietlein hopes the number of patrons will increase to 500,000 per year with the new space.
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