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Events center wows New Ute Theatre Society members

The outside New Ute Events Center marque was turned on for the annual meeting of the New Ute Theatre Society on Thursday night, May 1. It was also the first time residents viewed the inside of the remodeled theater.
Mike McKibbin/The Citizen Telegram |

“Wow” and “oh, my gosh” were heard several times when people first entered the just-finished remodeled New Ute Events Center in downtown Rifle on Thursday, May 1.

The much-anticipated facility was unveiled to members of the New Ute Theatre Society, or NUTS, the local nonprofit group that has helped the City of Rifle acquire and remodel the former 1940s-era movie theater over the last few years. The group held its annual meeting in the building, formerly the Rifle Creek Theater, which was closed in August 2012.

NUTS President Helen Rogers said the remodeling project, which included $135,000 worth of exterior work in 2011, an $85,000 grant to remove asbestos, a $600,000 grant from the Garfield County Federal Mineral Lease District, along with city and other funds, will likely come in under budget. The contractor, PNCI of Grand Junction, was awarded the project on a bid of $1.7 million and the total cost to date was $1.6 million, she said.



“So we’ve got about $60,000 left over, which is unheard of on a project like this, usually,” Rogers told the crowd of around 100 people.

Recently-hired Cultural and Special Events Coordinator Don Chaney, who will manage the facility, voiced what many in the crowd felt.



“The minute I walked in, I saw how beautiful this building will be,” he said. “And the technology we have to run things in the background makes it even more of a gem. I think this facility will be used for things we haven’t even thought of yet. We want this facility to really shine, and with your help, I know it can.”

Members elected a slate of officers, including Rogers as president; Todd Sieber, vice-president; Tanya Giard, treasurer; Jane Holt, secretary; and Shelley Aibner, marketing and promotions.

Rogers said the group will start to transition from a fundraising position to a self-sustaining organization. One-year memberships of varying levels will be offered this summer.

Sieber said the group will focus initially on several programming aspects: Performing arts (theater and dance), visual arts (film series, sports and art shows); musical arts and kid’s programming, including school plays and musicals.

Aibner said a Friday, May 23, “soft opening” and open house for the general public will allow the group, Chaney and others to “work into this softly and make sure everything operates perfectly.”

Local performers for the event include Sol de Mexico, ArtillumA Dance Co., the Boomtown Players, a student art show and choir from Rifle High School and the Johnny O Band, Aibner said.

“We’re gonna rock this house,” she added.

Other events already on the calendar are the Fall Festival in October and a New Year’s Eve celebration, Aibner noted.

During a tour, Chaney said the lighting and sound system can be pre-programmed and remote controlled from the stage or elsewhere, eliminating the need for someone to man the control booth. The programming can also be saved and reused at a later event.

“If a business wanted to have a teleconference, we can do that, too,” Chaney added. “We might be able to carry the [New Year’s Eve] ball drop [from new York City].”

Other amenities include stage and changing rooms, table or movie-style audience seating and a vendor area. The city plans to rent the facility on a first-come, first-serve basis.


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