Consultants who conducted feasibility study for new performing arts center want more community feedback |

Consultants who conducted feasibility study for new performing arts center want more community feedback

Creative groups like the Emerald City Opera, seen here in a performance of “Elixir,” are asking the community to consider the idea of building a performing arts center that would serve broader community needs that aren’t being met.
Courtesy photo

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — A feasibility study on building a new performing arts center found there is a “moderate” need for such a facility, according to consultants Webb Management.

The study also showed the need was based, in part, on the fact that current venues lack adequate back-of-house and production space for things such as set building and storage, dressing rooms for larger casts, an orchestra pit and sizable wing space and rehearsal space.

The findings were presented via webinar Wednesday, March 18. Citizens logged in online and could listen to the presentation and ask questions. Webb Management is a team of consultants who study the feasibility and sustainability of arts and culture facilities.

The study found that Steamboat residents are 30% more likely to go to live theatre productions, 39% more likely to go to classical music concerts and 21% more likely to go to rock concerts than the average American.

Webb also found that the local market capacity for people buying tickets to performing arts shows is 56,523, which includes events outside of the Yampa Valley. This was based on statistics from the National Endowment for the Arts.

For perspective, Strings Music Festival sells about 25,000 tickets for its own events and others that use the Strings venue, according to Webb consultant Sean Benolken.

While the study focused on indoor performing arts facilities and the feasibility of additional venues in the market, results showed the biggest interest from full-time and part-time residents was for outdoor performing arts festivals. That brought up a possible opportunity to include an outdoor amphitheater as part of any new performing arts venue, although the idea wasn’t closely examined in the most recent study.

Benolken also said, based on surveys collected by the Steamboat Springs Chamber, there are desires for more activities for adults and more nightlife activities for visitors when they’re not skiing or participating in outdoor recreation.

Webb also highlighted challenges involved in pursuing a new performing arts center, including the fact that nonprofit art organizations are becoming increasingly dependent on fundraising, which is highly competitive. That also brought up the question of whether a new performing arts center would be more sustainable if it could be rented out for other uses like meetings, weddings, competitions and other events.

For now, Webb Management isn’t making any recommendations, but instead, will be seeking more feedback from the community on its preliminary findings and data.

The link for Webb’s findings can be found on by clicking on “Performing Art Center” at the top of the page to find the proper link.

After hearing from the public, recommendations could include investigating what performing art organizations could partner to pursue a new performing arts center and the economic feasibility of supporting a new venue. Or the recommendation could be to expand current facilities to help ease overcrowding and the overlapping of events wanting to use the same venue.

For example, Benolken said Steamboat Springs High School is discussing expansion of its auditorium since its theater program is growing. That could include new space for set building, storage and dressing rooms. He also said that while the popular Chief Theater is “landlocked,” they are exploring opportunities to renovate and expand the theater and front-of-house spaces, but any other expansion might have to be vertical.

The study was paid for through private donations and fundraising from nonprofit performance groups and overseen by Steamboat Creates.

“Given the current economic instability of our community and the global markets, we will wait with whatever recommendation the community decides upon before we move forward,” said Steamboat Creates Development Director Dagny McKinley

Frances Hohl is a contributing writer for Steamboat Pilot & Today.

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