Lawrence city commissioners are being asked to provide $100,000 in public funding to help a Lawrence community theater group complete a multimillion-dollar campaign to build a new theater in west Lawrence.
Leaders with Theatre Lawrence — formerly known as the Lawrence Community Theatre — are asking that the city provide the group $20,000 per year for the next five years to build a 300-seat theater northeast of Sixth and Wakarusa in an area in front of Free State High School.
“The cultural and economic benefits will be immense and will create a new cultural destination within our community,” Mary Doveton, executive director of Theatre Lawrence wrote in a letter to commissioners.
City commissioners have been told the funding request is urgent because the group has to secure a handful of new pledges by the end of September in order to keep $1.5 million in “challenge” grants that the project has been awarded from out-of-state agencies.
In total, the theater group is seeking to raise $6.2 million to build the new theater. In July, the group confirmed it was about $1 million short of its goal. Attempts to reach Doveton on Friday afternoon for a fundraising update were not successful.
The idea of a city contribution has some support on the commission. City Commissioner Bob Schumm said he could see the value of placing public money in the project.
“It is a great project and it will speak well for Lawrence,” Schumm said. “It will help bring commerce from outside the city, and it is a genuine community activity. I like to support things that are genuinely Lawrence.”
Commissioners do frequently give to arts activities. In its 2012 budget, the city has set aside $79,000 for Van Go Mobile Arts, $90,000 for the Lawrence Arts Center, $25,000 for arts center scholarships, and $23,000 to the Lawrence Cultural Arts Commission.
City commissioners will meet at 6:35 p.m. Tuesday at City Hall.