Glenwood eyes performing arts center

Dennis WebbGlenwood Springs correspondent

GLENWOOD SPRINGS Glenwood Springs should consider building a performing art center bigger than Aspen’s Wheeler Opera House, a consultant is recommending.The city’s needs would best be met with a 600- to 800-seat main hall and 200- to 300-seat studio theater, according to the recommendation by Webb Management Services, based in New York City.The Wheeler Opera House has 489 seats.Webb Management’s research found that a majority of local organizations interested in using a performing arts facility would like a space that has between 600 and 800 seats. A lack of a larger facility has impeded growth for many of these organizations, the company said.Duncan Webb of Webb Management presented the findings at a recent workshop attended by City Council and members of a temporary performing arts center committee. Next, the company will work on a business plan for the center, including how much it would cost and how the city might pay for it.”Don’t panic; there are several ways to do this,” he told council members.Among the options are building the large or small theater first and the other later, or building one 500- to 600-seat theater in place of the larger and smaller ones, Webb said.The committee has been looking into how the city finally can take action on a 24-year idea of building a performing arts center.City residents twice have voted to support such a center, but further efforts have been stymied by a lack of both adequate funding and a location. At one time city leaders had hoped to build it at the Community Center, but the city later decided to use the allocated space there for parking and tennis courts instead. Now the city is hoping to possibly build a theater as part of the eventual redevelopment of the area east of the confluence of the Roaring Fork and Colorado rivers.”It’s been planned for and it’s been funded and it’s been delayed,” said Dean Moffatt, a member of the performing arts center committee. “We now have the best support ever in the community.We now have momentum. We now have something coming into focus as a site.”Supporters of the project are interested in linking a performing arts center project with plans for a new public library in Glenwood. Committee member Judy O’Donnell said a combined theater and library were built in Broomfield, and the committee visited it.”The theater quite frankly was not really attractive. They made mistakes in the theater but they love the synergy they were getting with the library and theater together,” she said.”This could be the most exciting project for our downtown, for revitalization.”Webb said the path Glenwood’s performing arts center project has taken isn’t unusual.Sometimes, he said, “it takes a long time for something to happen suddenly, and this project is germinating that way.”With the need established, Webb said it all comes down to dealing with the politics and economics of a project.”When that happens, it’s 100 miles an hour. It often takes years and years and years for those pieces to line up,” he said.Politically speaking, council members were comfortable with Webb continuing with the next phase of planning a performing arts center, saying it’s a matter of following through on an unfulfilled promise to voters.”The voters have voted twice. Our community needs this,” council member Kris Chadwick.One concern for council member Larry Beckwith is that the city might build a performing arts center without taking into account the cost of operating it.”We had the same attitude with the Community Center, and we ended up in a hole for a long time,” he said.Council member Dave Merritt said consultants will look at operational costs as part of the next phase of analysis.