Rifle turns out in big numbers to see Ute Theatre’s latest renovations
RIFLE — For the first time in 2017, the Ute Theatre opened its doors Friday, and the redesigned venue hit capacity within minutes. By the time performances started, anyone without a seat had to either wait outside or in the lobby as the theater’s new retractable seating had only so many spots.
“We were hopeful to reach capacity and we got a packed house tonight,” said Helen Rogers, president of the New Ute Theatre Society — NUTS. “It’s a wonderful feeling when the community is as passionate about theater as we are. Everyone that is performing tonight is a part of the community.”
The grand reopening had such a good turnout that those who showed up just 10 minutes after the doors were scheduled to be open at 6 p.m. had trouble finding parking close to the theater. In fact, the Ute opened its doors a half-hour early to accommodate the line that had formed outside.
Built in 1947, the Ute, which was renovated in 2014 and won a state award, now includes new lighting, retractable seating, a concession stand and a fresh look inside and out.
“We hope to make it a mixed-use facility,” Helen Rogers told the Post Independent. “We think the retractable seating will greatly improve seating visibility.”
Of all the improvements of the redesign, nothing has Rogers and the other members of NUTS more excited than the retractable seating.
At the reopening, Rogers praised how the adjustable seating looked with people in it for the first time since it’d been installed.
The Ute holds venues for dance, theater, piano, small jazz bands, lectures and more, and the retractable seating will provide options to form different seating types for different kinds of venues.
“It will really add flexibility,” Rogers said. “The facility is designed to be flexible, and that is something the group really wanted to be able to take advantage of.”
The retractable seating cost $122,040 to install, well short of the $148,000 estimate, with donations from Community Newspaper, Clough Family Foundation, El Pomar Foundation, individual members of the community and more.
The cost of the reconstruction project came in at around $2 million, with a majority of the money coming from grants, funds and donations from individuals and organizations.
A $5 donation was recommended at the door on Friday and from what Rogers saw, most guests donated $5 or more. She said that the money will be used for promoting the Ute, sponsoring nonprofit organizations, and providing more culture, art, and music to the community.
NUTS hopes that the interior renovation will greatly expand the types of performances that can be booked at the Ute and already performers have been scheduled for 2017. Sam Bush will be coming to Rifle on Feb. 23; the Young Dubliners will be returning on March 9; bluesman Coco Montoya will be there March 25; and on March 4, the Ute will host the second annual Hoot at the Ute with benefits going to the Rifle Animal Shelter.
For more information, visit utetheater.com to see updated schedules and upcoming events.
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