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University Place pledges $1 million as Hale Center Theatre announces move to mall campus

December 12, 2018 GMT

University Place and the Woodbury Corporation, in conjunction with Orem, have announced a proposed $1 million pledge to Hale Center Theatre for a new Orem location adjacent to The Orchard at University Place.

The announcement came during Tuesday’s Orem City Council work session. It is the beginning of a process that would include zone changes and street changes that would need the city council’s support.

Ryan Clark, Orem’s economic development director made the presentation to the council on behalf of Woodbury and Hale Center Theatre Orem. Clark noted that this project had been in discussion for the past three years. Hale Center Theatre was first to approach the city.

The project is subject to council approval and if Hale Center Theatre can reach their funding goals, which are yet to be completely determined. It was also announced that a developer is on board with financial help as soon as the location and plans are established.

The new facility is proposed to be built in the parking lot just north of The Orchard with a south-facing entrance. A restaurant pad and office building would be next door. A hotel is planned to be built where the current Utah Transit Authority bus station is located.

The office building and hotel could be under construction by the end of 2019. If Hale Center Theatre can get on the fast track and the financing by donors in place, it could be under construction by 2022.

This would necessitate taking out six homes already owned by Woodbury that are being used as rental homes.. A new wall would be built to protect the internal neighborhoods. There would also be some road reconfiguration.

“We love the possibilities,” said Mayor Richard Brunst. “We look forward to seeing where this ends up.”

According to a joint press release by Woodbury and Hale Center Theatre, the theater development plans include a 568-seat theater with a proscenium thrust stage, which allows audience on three sides of the stage, a black box theater that would seat 200, a grand lobby and more.

Renderings show a mezzanine and main floor with two basement levels. There is room for offices, expanded costume shop, green room and vocal practice rooms as well.

“This adds to the identity of Orem as a regional draw,” Clark said. “It keeps momentum of the University Place project as well. It keeps Orem regionally significant.”

Clark referred to the loss of the Storytelling Festival out of Orem to Lehi and how the new regional-style theater meets the strategic plan of the city and recaptures lost sales tax revenues as patrons tend to eat out and shop when they come to see a show.

A study showed that 28 percent of those who attend shows at the theater are from outside Utah County.

Hale Center Theatre Orem has been in its current location at 400 N. 225 West since May 1990. Depending on the show, it can seat between 280 and 303. Most shows are presented as theater-in-the-round. The new facilities are intended to keep that intimate theater experience.

The theater would grow from the current 11,000 square feet to about 64,000 square feet, with 316 parking stalls compared to about 87 available now, with some overflow.

In comparison, the new Hale Center Theatre in Sandy has 135,000 square feet and cost about $85 million. According to Cody Swenson, executive director at Hale Center Theatre Orem, there has never been an intention to be as big as the Sandy venture. However, with the new build, it would put the Orem location in the top five theaters in the state, with Tuachan in St. George being number one.

Over the past few years, the demand for the arts entertainment and education provided by Hale Center Theatre Orem has grown, the press release states. The theater has experienced annual growth of more than 5 percent, and recently reached a benchmark of serving 150,000 patrons in a single year. Additionally, the population of Utah County continues to grow steadily, all of which contributes to the need for a larger facility.

“We’re consistently in the 97 percent fill rate for our shows, but our current location doesn’t allow us to grow in the way we need to,” said Cody Swenson, executive director at Hale Center Theater Orem, in the press release. “After working closely with city officials on how to best turn our expansion ideas into reality, the obvious location was University Place, because it is in essence the center of everything in Orem. We are extremely grateful for the generous support of University Place and the Woodbury family in helping us start this exciting new chapter.”

The donation officially kickstarts Hale Center Theatre Orem’s fundraising efforts to secure the additional investments necessary to move forward with the project.

Hale Center Theater Orem provides a full-season of seven main-stage productions and a youth season of five shows. The Hale Academy for the Performing Arts provides instruction in arts education.

For more information visit https://www.haletheater.org.