Archive for Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Douglas County commissioners agree to give $100,000 to Theatre Lawrence for new building on Sixth Street

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 14, 2011, 5:31 p.m. Updated September 14, 2011, 8:52 p.m.


All property owners in Douglas County will be giving Theatre Lawrence a financial push to help the organization reach its goal for building a new theater, office and classroom project in northwestern Lawrence.

Douglas County commissioners agreed unanimously Wednesday evening to give the organization $20,000 next year and to pledge another $20,000 a year for the next four to reach a total of $100,000.

Commissioners decided the money would come out of the $350,000 they reserve each year for economic-development projects. That puts the theater project on the same financial stage as the $433,000 commissioners have committed to infrastructure for a Berry Plastics warehouse expansion and the $100,000 a year commissioners likely will be asked to pump into an anticipated expansion of a bioscience and technology business incubator on Kansas University’s West Campus.

The total $100,000 commitment for the theater project is being added to another $100,000 pledged by the Lawrence City Commission — money intended to move Theatre Lawrence closer to securing a $1 million “challenge” grant offered by the estate of Mabel Woodyard, who has relatives who have been involved in the organization.

To get the grant, Theatre Lawrence needs total donations and pledges of $6.2 million by the organization’s Sept. 30 deadline. With the county’s contribution and future pledges, the organization remains $323,000 short.

Organizers actually need to generate another $423,000 in private donations if they want to hang onto a $500,000 challenge grant offered by the Mabee Foundation of Oklahoma. That grant also is being counted in the $6.2 million total.

Hanging in the balance: whether the organization can move out of its cramped quarters inside a former church at 1501 N.H. and into a new home that can accommodate its performances, youth programs and other operations that have been growing for 35 years.

“We’re making such a positive difference in this community, and we’re asking for so little in return,” said Bobby Patton, a board member for Theatre Lawrence. “If we do not raise this money, our dream will vanish. We will never have another chance. We won’t get this close again. So unless we get the support of you and our community, it’s just going to be a dream that goes unrealized.”

Individual donors, foundations and other sources of financing already have pledged nearly $5.8 million, a total includes the two “challenge” grants. Also included is the land — appraised at more than $700,000 — where the theater would be built in the Bauer Farms development, northwest of Sixth Street and Wakarusa Drive, just south of Free State High School.

“We will make our goal,” said Mary Doveton, executive director of Theatre Lawrence. “One way or another, we will make our goal.”

Before agreeing to contribute money from the county’s economic-development funds — a fund backed by revenues generated from county property taxes — commissioners cautioned that they didn’t want to spend money that might otherwise be available for social services and other programs traditionally supported by the county government.

They agreed that helping support construction of a new 300-seat theater, one billed as being in use for more than 200 nights a year, would be an investment in the community and its quality of life. That, in turn, would help draw retirees to live in the community and attract out-of-town visitors to spend money.

Commissioner Mike Gaughan, who attends at least a half dozen Theatre Lawrence performances a year, noted how the Lawrence community regularly supports tax breaks on job-creation projects that pencil out with $2 or $3 in public benefits for each $1 in taxes abated.

“This is an at least 7.5-to-1 ... return on investment,” Gaughan said. “And that’s just a simple return on the two grants that are out there, not even taking into consideration all the other elements that we get. ...

“I think it’s a great project, and we should be so lucky that every time we look at an economic-development project we get a 7.5-to-1 return.”

Doveton said that construction likely would begin late this winter, with hopes of having the project finished in time to open Theatre Lawrence’s 2013 season. The organization still needs to come up with financing for furnishings and equipment, but that push will be left for a later date.

Say, next month.

“We’re talking to a lot of people,” said Janis Bunker, co-chairwoman of the Theatre Lawrence campaign. “People are being extraordinarily generous.”


kansasredlegs 6 years, 7 months ago

It's a "real easy case" Mr. Gaughan 'cause it ain't yo' money you be giving away. Not so sure you'd get your "own" wallet out that fast. I have an idea. Why don't the commissions release all their charitable donations reported to the IRS and see if they give so freely with their money.

By the way, $100,000 divided by 400 volunteers over 5 years is only $50 per volunteer per year. If they want it so bad, I have a crowbar they can borrow to crack open their, not the taxpayers', wallets!

midwestmom 6 years, 7 months ago

You have it 100% correct. It is unbelievable that the commissioners made this boneheaded decision. I can think of any number of agencies who actually need a $100k boost to their coffers: Douglas County Senior Services, Douglas County Visiting Nurses, Bert Nash and I'm betting people can add even more deserving agencies to the list. I say need specifically. It's nice to have a community theatre. There are many elder persons who need a meal delivered each day or need a ride to their doctors appointments or need a visit from a visiting nurse.

I was taught a long time ago the difference between needs and wants. Apparently the commissioners missed that parental teaching.

This just seriously chaps my you know where!!

sad_lawrencian 6 years, 7 months ago

“If we do not raise this money, our dream will vanish. We will never have another chance." I'm sorry, but this sounds like BS. Where there's a will, there's a way, especially when it comes to the arts.

DustyAcres 6 years, 7 months ago

Maybe they shouldn't have designed such a fancy building. Couldn't they have cut back somewhere. And isn't this in the "special tax" district. Are they going to add a little to every ticket they sell? I can't believe people are going to flock in from out of town for these shows. Come re-election time, remember country people have long memories.

Bobo Fleming 6 years, 7 months ago

Its not just the guys in DC that are clue less. Its a nice project but there is no more money. The County Commissioners will have to figure that out the hard way.

justforfun 6 years, 7 months ago

Looking forward.... Next month Theatre Lawrence asks city and county to ante up an additional 323K cuz the 200K they got was SOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO easy to get!! Suckers!!!

crimsonwithblue22 6 years, 7 months ago

There are many area construction companies and subcontractors hurting for work right now. I would have thought they probably could have tightened their belt or scrutinized their budget by 200k on a $6.2 million dollar project and made it work with no extra help needed by city or county taxpayers.

When will they formally put this plan out to bid? I know a lot of general contractors that would love to have a shot at this project. Many have cut their margins in half just to stay busy. It will be interesting to see who the winning bidder will be and if the Theatre Lawrence group might be able to cut some cost off the $6.2 million estimate.

straightforward 6 years, 7 months ago

Don't count on anyone local playing a major role in the construction. Bids like this usually go to larger companies that specialize in commercial construction, in other words, not the majority of local contractors. The goal of this is not economic development. A theater that hosts programs for children... seriously? It's a quality of life project that will benefit a limited number of people within the city. There is no reason the county should be on the hook for this. If people are "extraordinarily generous" like the chairwoman says, then fund your own project.

Voters, the decision was unanimous. Keep that in mind next election.

irvan moore 6 years, 7 months ago

wow, a freaking pond! what a waste of money for the taxpayers.

dogsandcats 6 years, 7 months ago

“If we do not raise this money, our dream will vanish. We will never have another chance. We won’t get this close again. So unless we get the support of you and our community, it’s just going to be a dream that goes unrealized.”

I call BS. How about you just scale back on your stupid $6.2 million building?

"The organization still needs to come up with financing for furnishings and equipment, but that push will be left for a later date."

$6.2 million doesn't even include the furnishings or equipment? Who's going to pay for that?

dogsandcats 6 years, 7 months ago

Also, I'd like to know how they figure a 7.5 to 1 return on investment.

Pastor_Bedtime 6 years, 7 months ago

Yeah, the arts community are completely out of touch with the economic hardships the majority of folks are feeling. Why do they hate the ones funding them?

woodscolt 6 years, 7 months ago

100g to get 6 mill. Not complicated. At least someone besides compton gets a break. At least someone who deserves the break. Great news for the arts. Sammy is probably fuming! I'm sure he and his minions are scheming on how to scuttle this to.

onceajhawkalwaysajhawk 6 years, 7 months ago

Dig deeper and I bet you find Compton, Frtzel and Treanor involved in this..

no_thanks 6 years, 7 months ago

Your right, Compton and Treanor are involved in that they donated the land. What have you done to advance the project or the community for that matter?

woodscolt 6 years, 7 months ago

Yeah, I guess I was pretending that it might be above that. Treanor is probably the architect and compton is probably going to be the gc. Don't know, but if thats true, it would appear to be another treanor/compton deal disguised as something else. Oh well.

Daniel Speicher 6 years, 7 months ago

That's exactly right, woodscolt, at least in principle... They aren't getting a $6M grant, though... Only a $1M grant. But, the point still stands valid. The reality is that $20k per year over the next five years will hardly be felt out of their special projects fund and the grand total of pledges at $100k will help secure a grant that is 10x the amount of the money issued by Douglas County. It's a great investment. And, frankly, a brilliant source of culture for a county & town that is known for its culture. I think it's a slam dunk for Douglas County.

--Danny Speicher

woodscolt 6 years, 7 months ago

I guess, in spite of the possible under billy to this whole thing, it will provide a venue for the performers and the audience that will be invaluable to Lawrence culture for many years (hopefully)

MarcoPogo 6 years, 7 months ago

The haters are right - the county should take that $20,000 a year that's budgeted for projects such as this and instead build roundabouts on K-10 to make it safer.

Deb Stavin 6 years, 7 months ago

I support this project and will be contributing. Cultural activities are an important part of a community's value, both economically and socially. The folk who attend performance events also patronize our restaurants, hotels (if they come from out of town, and many do), shop in our retail stores, and spread the word if they have a positive experience. Children and adults who participate in the theatre's productions learn a lot about cooperation and communication, and get a chance to express themselves creatively, and learn new skills, all in a safe, supportive setting.

Charles L. Bloss, Jr. 6 years, 7 months ago

You are wasting my tax money on this? I shouldn't be surprised, but I am surely pissed off.

MarcoPogo 6 years, 7 months ago

You are now out - what? - one quarter per year for the next five years? Maybe they'll do a show where they lower the ticket prices $1.25 for the angry taxpayers. (It better not be a musical.)

George_Braziller 6 years, 7 months ago

That's about what the per person tax "burden" was was for funding the Kansas Arts Commission. I can find that much change in the bottom of my washing machine in about two weeks.

Millions in matching funds lost because people like Lynn are "pissed" because he/she won't be able to stop at a vending machine and buy three cans of Coca Cola during the next 12 months. That's what pisses me off.

youngjayhawk 6 years, 7 months ago

That's wonderful ... kudos to our county commisioners for keeping Lawrence progressive and the arts alive in our community.

geekin_topekan 6 years, 7 months ago

Just like brownback wanted.

You all haters voted for him and, well, here ya go.

4getabouit 6 years, 7 months ago

I'll donate to buy a new playpen for 1 E W.

Sunny Parker 6 years, 7 months ago

Tax dollars paying for a persons 'dream'. This is BS!

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