The movers and shakers in Utah’s business and arts communities showed up Tuesday morning for the ground-breaking and naming of the new $116 million “Broadway type” theater in downtown Salt Lake City.
The complex -- soon to start construction on Main Street, stretching east to Regent Street -- will be called (drumroll please) the George S. and Dolores Dore Eccles Theater.
Spencer Eccles, nephew of the late philanthropists and former head of First Security Bank, said the family foundation gave $15 million toward the new theater.
Salt Lake City Mayor Ralph Becker also announced that Delta Air Lines had made a significant donation, and will have one of the theater halls named after the Atlanta-based commercial carrier with a hub in Salt Lake City.
And, hey, Becker said that there are still “naming opportunities” for the 2,500-seat main theater.
So if you want to maybe have a seat named after you, call up the city and give some money.
Several years ago the city issued a revenue bond for the whole $116 million construction cost.
But those monies don’t start to flow into city coffers until late 2015.
The Eccles gift will help pay debt service – interest – on the bonds until the taxes start coming in, city financial officials told UtahPolicy.
As has already been announced, the Larry and Gail Miller Foundation has given the project $2 million.
Salt Lake County already runs several theaters/stages – including the Capitol Theater where the Utah Opera and Ballet West put on performances.
And County Mayor Ben McAdams said the managers of those facilities are ready, able and eager to take the new Eccles Theater under their responsibilities.
Both Becker and McAdams stressed that the new theater – which will host “Broadway class” traveling shows and concerts – is a compliment to, not a financial distractions from – other local arts organizations.
It’s taken years to get the new theater off the ground.
And one of the main concerns was that it would take bookings – and thus profits – away from other local arts organizations, especially some of the live theater in the city, like Pioneer Memorial Theater on the University of Utah campus.
“We have been waiting for this for a long, long time,” said Becker, who acted as master of ceremonies for the groundbreaking.
“In two short years” the theater will be built and open.
The new theater front will run along the northeastern part of Main Street between 2nd and 1st South streets.
The rear of the theater will be on Regent Street, where the old Newspaper Agency Corporation press building used to sit.
Becker and others said the theater will be another anchor in downtown Salt Lake City, which two years ago saw the opening the LDS Church’s multi-billion-dollar City Creek shopping and restaurant mall.
The Church, which became the owner of the NAC press building on Regent Street (a whole other story there) donated that ground.
Besides the press building, three older buildings on Main Street were also acquired by the city, and are in the process of being torn down.
Becker said Regent Street will become a treasure, with cafes and other new retail tenants.
The Main Street Trax Station is just in front of the new theater, and the Regent Street parking garage is just across Regent Street from the back of the theater.
So there will be easy access for theatergoers.
Eccles loves the musical The Music Man.
And Becker/McAdams et al. surprised him with an autographic copy of the 1954 Broadway original music score, properly framed. “Holy Moly,” said Eccles to himself.
A small brass band played Music Man tunes after the groundbreaking.
Perhaps the best line of the event, however, was unexpected: Elder Dean M. Davies, of the Church’s presiding bishopric, shouted out to the crowd: “Quoting James Brown, “I feel good and I knew I would!””