To much fanfare and celebration, the Eccles Performing Arts Theater has opened at the Corner of Main Street and 100 South. The lineup of upcoming performances is remarkable: Broadway touring companies will have a spectacular new home, as will well-renowned comedians and touring bands. Main Street has a crown jewel, and a great reason for visitors to visit downtown.
However, as we have seen other mega-projects completed, fallout to surrounding areas was eventually realized. Remember the impact that City Creek Center had on Gateway and Trolley Square? So what kind of impact will this new mega-theater have on Utah’s smaller venues? It was Kingsbury Hall that hosted comedians in the past and the Capitol Theatre that hosted the Broadway touring companies. Our question to those managing the new Eccles: How will these venues fare now that there is a huge new (mostly taxpayer-financed) game in town?
The Salt Lake County Center for the Arts owns and operates Rose Wagner, Capitol Theatre and Abravanel Hall. They will also operate the Eccles. Art’s Director Cami Munk says they have a plan for how they will manage the shows at the other theaters, which should open more opportunity for smaller touring theater companies to visit the Capitol Theatre. She could not speak to the impact that the new theater will have on Pioneer Memorial, Libby Gardner and Kingsbury, or the private theaters such as the Hale Center Theater and the Off-Broadway, as these theaters are operated under separate entities. She says the symphony at Abravanel Hall and Utah Opera will remain at Capitol Theatre.
Munk added “The Capitol has undergone a $33 million renovation. Ballet West and Utah Opera are resident companies, as is JazzSLC. We have regular performance by the Children’s Dance Theater, Ririe-Woodbury Dance Co., and Miss Utah. We have the opportunity for touring shows that need a smaller venue, and now Capitol has more availability and I actually think it brings more opportunities.”
Mrs. Munk added, “The Lion King toured for a long time, but it couldn’t come to Utah because the Capitol didn’t have available dates and the seat count wasn’t large enough. The promise of the Eccles was to offer a venue for these large touring Broadway shows to come sooner and with . Hamilton coming here on it’s first national tour, we’ve succeeded.”
Lia Summers, Senior Advisor for Arts & Culture for the Mayor’s Office added: “ We see the Eccles Theatre as a rising tide to lift all boats. Of course, the same efforts to support each of these venues will be will be made as each of the venues listed offer unique programming. The National Endowment for the Arts recently released survey data that found that Utah has 18.3% higher attendance to arts events than the rest of the nation on average, so there is certainly a market for a large quantity and variety of quality arts programming here.”
From the $119 million budget for the theater, the 2,500 seat playhouse received $27 million in private donations from The Miller Family, the Eccles Foundation, the LDS Church and Delta Airlines. This represents 10-18% of the total cost. The City retired the debt that it incurred for the renovation of the Salt Palace and Vivint Smart Home Arena. Freeing up those monies in 2016 allowed the city to finance the project.