No, the Hale Centre Theatre doesn’t have enough money to fully build and open the two-stage venue off Interstate 15 in Sandy.
Yes, it needed the Salt Lake County Council to contribute as the nonprofit theater continues fundraising to make the the move from West Valley City to the south valley.
That’s according to Sandy Mayor Tom Dolan and an executive from the Hale Centre Theatre, who on Tuesday told County Council members the project was at risk if it didn’t receive $4.7 million tentatively approved by the county previously.
“With the two prior votes, we allowed Hale to move ahead with adding the things they needed to add,” Dolan said. “They had to put it in now or you can’t put it in later because it’s under construction.”
Brent Lange, vice president and chief development officer for the theater, gave council members a sheet that painted a different financial picture for the project than what a Sandy spokeswoman gave to The Tribune on Monday.
Lange’s document showed the nonprofit expected money from the county, and that without county support it would have to find about $10 million in the next two months.
Representatives from Hale Centre Theatre didn’t respond to a request for comment Monday.
But Sandy spokeswoman Nicole Martin responded to The Tribune’s questions, repeating three times during the Monday interview that the theater had enough money and that the county’s $4.7 million was for the “betterment” of the theater.
Sandy approved a $42.7 million bond to pay for a majority of the theater, money the nonprofit will pay back in lease payments in the coming years.
“We bond for a fully functional theater that will accomplish the goals that we want,” she said Monday. “As you receive additional funding you might upgrade so to speak.”
“There is not a gap in fundraising as I’ve clearly stated,” Martin said.
Websites of Sandy and the theater still active on Tuesday evening put the theater’s total cost at $65 million, with all but the $42.7 million from the bond coming from from private fundraising.
But information presented Tuesday tagged the bottom line at $80.6 million. And even with the county contribution, the project is almost $5.4 million short of what Hale Centre Theatre must raise by Oct. 31. The facility will spend $18.4 million on furniture, fixtures, lighting and other equipment costs.
Sandy leaders and County Council members who voted in favor of giving $4.7 million to Sandy for the project said they viewed two votes in June as final.
“I cannot fathom that this council would go back on its word,” Councilman Michael Jensen said.
Councilman Richard Snelgrove said he was leading the charge against the county funding at this late stage because there were better uses of public money, such as roads, jail beds or substance-abuse treatment. He repeatedly called the funding a “bailout” for Sandy.
“A bailout to Sandy City because they didn’t do their numbers correctly several years ago, I don’t think should be borne by Salt Lake County taxpayers,” Snelgrove said.
Eight county residents who called in for public comment and one who showed up in person made clear their opposition.
Americans For Prosperity-Utah also said in a news release the right-leaning group “will make sure [council members] are held accountable when the time comes.”
“It’s nice to know that Salt Lake County is apparently so flush with cash that we can afford to spend millions on a privately-funded theater project that doesn’t even need the money,” Evelyn Everton, the group’s state director, said in the statement. “Even if you support the arts, you should be disturbed by this colossal waste of taxpayer money that could be better spent on essential services.”
It took some artful budgeting to make the contribution happen.
In June, a majority of the council voted to set aside 10 percent of $47 million from sales taxes in the county earmarked for roads to build a parking structure for the new district attorney’s building downtown. The $4.7 million from a bond issued to build that parking structure then would be diverted to the Hale Centre Theatre. Tuesday’s vote was the final approval of that agreement.
Several of the five council members who voted in support of the spending said they were doing so because they wanted to support arts and culture, and the ensuing economic development they said would come from such investments.
“We cannot totally neglect that we have to build the quality of life as well [as basic services],” Councilman Jim Bradley said. “Not just take away the negative, but build the positive.”