Post Independent opinion: Exploration appreciated, but approach performing arts center with caution | PostIndependent.com
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Post Independent opinion: Exploration appreciated, but approach performing arts center with caution

Community leaders are exploring the long-simmering idea of building a performing arts facility in Glenwood Springs. We commend the group for its initiative in researching creative options. Nevertheless, early estimates for construction and operating costs give us pause.

It’s a lovely idea to have a new performing arts space in town, with a mix of films and live entertainment presented by locals and touring groups. But it’s a sobering notion to think of raising the millions needed for construction and to commit to an annual financial subsidy of such a facility.

In its essence, this proposal as it evolves will force us to define the cultural identity of Glenwood Springs. Should we be investing more in the arts to complement the extensive public and private sector investments in recreation?



For decades now, Glenwood Springs has focused its civic and commercial efforts on a tourist economy centered on recreation: hot springs, skiing, rafting, cycling, hiking, fishing and caving. The community has spent millions on amenities such as the river trail system, the whitewater park, the community center, the ice rink, parks, tennis courts and ballfields.

It’s no accident that Glenwood Springs has been recognized by mapmaker Rand McNally as the “most fun town” in the U.S.



Meanwhile, the city’s performing arts study committee is focused on an investment in cultural resources, along with providing a large meeting space that could accommodate larger events. The facilities would be part of the Glenwood Springs Community Center.

The rough proposal is to build a 350- to 500-seat theater with telescoping seating that can be pushed back to expose a large flat floor, and to enclose the ice rink for seven months of skating and five months of conferences and other events.

The combined venture would cost anywhere from $20 million to $26 million, plus an annual operating subsidy of $350,000 to $400,000.

Right now, those numbers sound daunting and risky. It’s hard to imagine that our community would have the audience for 90 to 100 shows and another 120 days of special events a year, but perhaps we are not thinking big enough.

Maybe Glenwood Springs is ready for a performing arts facility completely open to community and touring entertainment bookings without the scheduling constraints that limit performances in the Jeannie Miller Theatre at Glenwood Springs High School.

Suffice it to say, the financial plan for such a venture would have to involve a new source of income.

One idea being discussed is a small-scale version of metro Denver’s Scientific and Cultural Facilities District, which uses a 1 cent per $10 sales tax to fund museums, nature centers, art centers and performing arts groups.

This funding question is the next step in the work being done by the committee, and we urge the Glenwood Springs City Council to ask the group to develop a financial plan for this ambitious vision. With the full picture in hand, we can then decide whether this proposed cultural investment is worthwhile or viable.


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