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Archive for Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Theatre Lawrence receives city funding to help with new $6.2 million theater

Artist rendering of Theatre Lawrence’s planned 300-seat theater. The organization has received donations from the Beach Foundation, Tensie Oldfather, The Sunderland Family Foundation and Bobby and Eleanor Patton.

Artist rendering of Theatre Lawrence’s planned 300-seat theater. The organization has received donations from the Beach Foundation, Tensie Oldfather, The Sunderland Family Foundation and Bobby and Eleanor Patton.

September 6, 2011

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Plans to build a $6.2 million community theater in northwest Lawrence got a last-minute boost from city commissioners on Tuesday.

Commissioners unanimously agreed to pledge $20,000 per year for the next five years to Theatre Lawrence’s efforts to build a new 300-seat theater on property near Sixth Street and Wakarusa Drive, roughly in front of Free State High.

Supporters of the organization, formerly called the Lawrence Community Theatre, filled the City Hall meeting room and urged commissioners to view the project as a way of improving the city’s quality of life and attracting visitors from outside the city.

“People come from out of town to see our shows,” said Bobby Patton, a member of the theater’s board. “They purchase meals. They stay overnight on occasion. Supporting the arts can result in very tangible gains for the city of Lawrence.”

Members of the theater group now have raised all but $484,000 of the $6.2 million. But the fundraising efforts are facing a time crunch. About $1.5 million worth of pledges are challenge grants that are contingent upon the project reaching its $6.2 million goal by the end of September.

Mary Doveton, executive director of Theatre Lawrence, said that the group’s volunteers are making fundraiser calls on a daily basis and that a large mailing is set to arrive in many area homes this week. She also said the group is considering asking the Douglas County Commission to make a pledge. She said if the group were to lose the $1.5 million in challenge grants, the project likely would no longer be feasible.

“We’re going to get there,” Doveton said. “You can’t get this far and not get over the top.”

City commissioners did express some concern about the timing of the request. The city already has approved its 2012 budget and was not able to rank this project against others that were seeking funding.

But commissioners said they could support the project, in part, because they will use money from the city’s Guest Tax Fund, which comes from travelers who pay a special tax at hotel rooms. Several commissioners said their support was contingent upon the city being able to pay for the pledge with guest tax money rather than property tax funds.

“I know the timing is kind of tough, but if you could accurately project the economic impact this theater will have on the community, I think the analysis would show this is an excellent investment,” said City Commissioner Hugh Carter.

Plans for the theater call for it to have 300 seats, up from about 160 at the current facility, which is located in a former church building at 15th and New Hampshire streets. Doveton estimates that the theater, through its shows and its children’s programming, will be in use about 200 nights per year.

Comments

Pete_Schweti 3 years, 3 months ago

My God, these people really will approve anything.

Brad Greenwood 3 years, 3 months ago

Well, unless they start producing Esther Williams-inspired water extravaganzas, the Lawrence Athletic Club just doesn't have the facilities. ;) (Not to mention, they're in bankruptcy.)

soullessginger 3 years, 3 months ago

I completely agree with Cheesebuger, why build another theater when Lawrence already has a theater that exists and is about the same size as the one being presented. If the one in town isn't attracting people from other city's to come to Lawrence spend money on dinner and a hotel then how is the new one going to?

IBike100 3 years, 3 months ago

Way to go, City Commission! This is a great thing for Lawrence. Most people objecting have never gone to a production there. Go and you'll see how lucky Lawrence is to have community theatre of this caliber.

John Hamm 3 years, 3 months ago

NOT like! These people will throw my money to anybody. Well it's only $20,000 a year and it comes from the Guest Tax fund......... Unbelievable.

neudog 3 years, 3 months ago

Thank you city commission and good work. Anyone who's been to a theatre show (in Lawrence or otherwise) can appreciate the value it brings to a city. I hope the last 400-500k in pledges follow soon, I'll do my part.

bd 3 years, 3 months ago

I'm glad I do not live in this money pit of a town!

pace 3 years, 3 months ago

well, gee, bd, I am sure there are a lot of places which don't invest in themselves. I bet they have cheaper rent. You would probably be welcome there.

Getaroom 3 years, 3 months ago

So why are you posting on this site? Go find something useful to do instead of cluttering up this blog.
Glad you don't live here too!

vuduchyld 3 years, 3 months ago

I'm completely in favor of community involvement in funding for the arts, but I will admit to being confused by a couple of things.

1) How did they settle on a 300 seat configuration? That's just about the same size as the Lawrence Arts Center theater and it seems like nobody can use it because it's too small to make a profit with all the overhead. Lawrence could really use a 500 seat theater.

2) Does anybody really think it will be used 200 nights per year? If so, how many of those shows will be the kind that bring people in from out of town? How many nights per year does the Lawrence Arts Center theater get booked?

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 3 months ago

My guess is that for theater productions, because of the need to create stage props and scenery, and then schedule rehearsals and multiple performances, it's difficult to share a theater for other uses. That's probably why there was never any attempt to use the Arts Center stage for these productions.

TheBigW 3 years, 3 months ago

That is a lame arse excuse and used by lazy people who can't run a show and should be running a show or managing a stage.

TheBigW 3 years, 3 months ago

Should NOT be running a show or managing a stage.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 3 years, 3 months ago

There's nothing "lame" about it. When there is a theater production underway, it precludes many, if not most, other uses.

That doesn't mean it can't occasionally be used for other purposes, but it does, in fact, limit those other uses.

Does that mean the city should be kicking in this $100,000? Well, that's just a whole nother question.

TheBigW 3 years, 3 months ago

How many seats will the lied center hold? Seems to me when I worked the production evens there, like Willie Nelson, there was more the 300 seats, open to the public. How many can you seat in the Liberty Hall? What about Murphy Hall? The city band can play there in bad weather, so seem to be able to open to the public for events.....

2. Very few

What do you expect though, the commission needs to pay back those who got them seated.

redwombat 3 years, 3 months ago

And obviously you've never attempted to do anything like this with the University. Ha, ha, ha. Crafton Pryor theater is always being used by the theater students to produce shows 5-7 times a year. The black boxes in Murphy Hall are used for the opera programs and the student directed theater students for 10 shows a year and Swarthout recital hall hosts upwards of 10-15 recitals, rehearsals and classes a week.
When the city band plays at Murphy Hall in the summer they play in the band rehearsal and instrument storage room, not in a theater. The theaters are honestly rarely available. Liberty Hall is a movie theater, a wedding venue and a concert venue. Not a permanent stage venue for people to come in on a daily basis, build sets and rehearse. The Leid Center is used several times a week for large University art's organizations including the choirs, orchestras, bands not to mention many state dignitary functions that occur weekly and not even mentioning the traveling performances that come through every 10 days or so.

redwombat 3 years, 3 months ago

You really think the LAC theater just sits empty? It is used ALL the time. It is impossible to book anything in that space due to how much it is used. The city children and youth involved in the Art's Center's dance and theater classes, along with various and sundry programs for adults sponsored by the LAC, as well as community organization like the Lawrence Chamber Orchestra all use the building with great regularity. There is always something going on there. There is no way that these two very, very active programs could simply "share" the theater and maintain their current schedule let alone consider growing their programs.

justforfun 3 years, 3 months ago

I don't understand why the theater people didn't ask the city to fund the remaining balance??? You know they would have passed it in the name of the "Arts"

Just crazy!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Cant_have_it_both_ways 3 years, 3 months ago

Maybe Gwen will complain about this blight too?

kseagle 3 years, 3 months ago

What a total WASTE of money!!! Left wing loons will never learn that there IS NOT an endless supply of money!

sourpuss 3 years, 3 months ago

If you want to build something out west, the city throws money and tax breaks at you. If you want to rebuild a grocery store, you're sent back to the drawing board a few times to add in one more fake window. Gee, no wonder East Lawrence doesn't have anything.

MISTERTibbs 3 years, 3 months ago

Go back and re-read the articles on the grocery store. It was the vocal minority in the neighborhood that caused most of the problems that Dillon's had to work around not the city.

Kontum1972 3 years, 3 months ago

neat.....O

will my taxes go up...even if dont attend?

LoL!

Ceallach 3 years, 3 months ago

"The problem with socialism is that eventually you run out of other people's money [to spend]." Margaret Thatcher

Not inferring that Lawrence tends to lean socialistic. Just saying, they are quite free with taxpayers' money.

dogsandcats 3 years, 3 months ago

I have been to several of their productions and, frankly, they suck. They put out low quality "community theater" type of productions, not anything worthy of a fancy new $6.2 million building.

jedifunk 3 years, 3 months ago

We know. You say this in every story relating to this organization.

Denigrating and insulting volunteers who give their time to something they love? Classy.

Jeff Blair 3 years, 3 months ago

LCT never asked the city for any funding for the past 35 years. I don't think you'll need to worry about a return trip. Gripe about the LAC taking tax funding if you're looking for a target.

no_thanks 3 years, 3 months ago

Merrill and others,

How is this not a form of the vile corporate welfare for which you have such disdain? Or is this the classic double standard about if it's for the ARTS its a worthy investment, but if its for any other "job producing" investment, it should stand on its own merit. And, the argument that this is a great economic development investment is simply foolish. Call this what it is, an investment in what will hopefully be a great Community asset, just as when the City makes an investment in businesses.

Prairielander 3 years, 3 months ago

Kudos to the Commission. Theater Lawrence has already raised over 5.5 million for the project. 20k/year is a worthy investment to get this started. It will be a nice additional to the Bauer Farms development and will be consistent with the mixed-use concept originally proposed for the area.

Lana Christie-Hayes 3 years, 3 months ago

I agree wholeheartedly! I definitely don't support all the $ spending decisions made by our Commissioners in Lawrence (i.e. 18M on the library and what will likely be a hideous parking garage in good 'ol downtown Lawrence.. a satellite library would have been much better).. but I think this is a meager investment for a great venue in our community.. and they've already raised all that $ themselves!! KUDOS !...

Lana Christie-Hayes 3 years, 3 months ago

I agree wholeheartedly! I definitely don't support all the $ spending decisions made by our Commissioners in Lawrence (i.e. 18M on the library and what will likely be a hideous parking garage in good 'ol downtown Lawrence.. a satellite library would have been much better).. but I think this is a meager investment for a great venue in our community.. and they've already raised all that $ themselves!! KUDOS !...

Godot 3 years, 3 months ago

I do not agree that if a not-for-profit org raises 75% of what is needs for a new project that the taxpayers should be put on the hook for the remainder. If a not-for-profit wants to expand, it should garner 100% of the funds before it commits to the project. If TheatreLawrence has raised $5.5 million, then celebrate!!! Build what a paltry $5.5 million will build. period. Let the architects eat the rest.

rockchalker52 3 years, 3 months ago

This is a wise investment in our community. It will pay dividends both economically and culturally.

UfoPilot 3 years, 3 months ago

It would have been better to locate it in North Lawrence next to the almost vacant mall. It could have shared a huge parking lot, had easy access from the turnpike and helped an economically depressed area.

jedifunk 3 years, 3 months ago

The Bauer Farm plot of land was donated to the theater. I'm sure that had something to do with their decision to move.

jayhawklawrence 3 years, 3 months ago

I think most people would be impressed if you could say it was completely funded by private donations. Now you can never say that. I think they lost something by pressuring the city for tax dollars.

You also continue the perception that this city commission is not careful enough or responsible enough with public money.

Godot 3 years, 3 months ago

I luv Theatre Lawrence. But now that you have decided to tap the taxpayers for the bill that your supporters won't pay, you have lost 100% of my support, including volunteering. You have made a major blunder with this tactic.

Richard Heckler 3 years, 3 months ago

This is more about selling all of older vacant bedrooms and new ones being built as if the economy is bouncing back tomorrow. West Lawrence has tons of empty bedrooms. Can we say facade?

That "New Urbanism" NOT project is a failure. It needs a boost. A theatre surrounded by junk food is an odd pair. Can we say facade?

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