Developers hope to move forward with renovations at Steamboat’s Chief Theater by summer (with video) |

Developers hope to move forward with renovations at Steamboat’s Chief Theater by summer (with video)

To those walking past the Chief Theater in downtown Steamboat Springs, it may seem as if nothing has happened since the owners of the building closed the iconic downtown entertainment venue in January 2021.

However, building owners Kori McClurg and her husband, Barry Sherman, explained that is not the case as they move forward with their plans to renovate the community-centered arts and entertainment venue. That work could begin as early as this summer.

“Everyone’s been knocking on our door and asking, ‘when?’” Sherman said. “It took us about a year to ensure that the design that we put together is going to meet the community needs.”

To do that, Sherman said he has reached out to the performing arts community to find out how to make the theater a platform for those groups. McClurg and Sherman are also seeking investors to be a part of the effort to make the venue a center for the arts community.

“We are moving forward,” McClurg said. “We are fully approved, we are through planning and our construction drawings are 100% complete, and we have a bid from the contractor. Now we are just out securing financing on equity and debt. We’re just trying to put the whole financial piece together, but for all intents and purposes we are ready to go.”

The couple’s intent is to renovate the venue, which will host live theater, contemporary music, opera, symphony and comedy. It will feature performing arts groups based in Steamboat Springs as well as bring regional and national acts to town.

McClurg and Sherman said the space can also be used for movies, conferences, and when finished, it will also provide rental opportunities for events like company meetings and private parties. The plans call for a restaurant, and a rooftop deck with live performance space. The couple said they hope to fill a gap that exists in the current restaurant landscape that they define as fast-casual, plant-based food with a lower price point.

The owners of the Chief Theater building, pictured here on Jan. 9. 2023, are in the process of lining up investors for a renovation they are hoping will make the cultural and performing arts venue a centerpiece of downtown Steamboat Springs. The theater was first opened in 1927 and was owned by Harry Gordon, a decendent of the Miami Tribe of Oklahoma. For a decade, the historic downtown theater has been home to the Friends of the Chief, who were tenants before the theater was closed in January 2021.
John F. Russell/Steamboat Pilot & Today

“We’ll have a restaurant in the front that serves all day, every day,” McClurg said. “It will also serve as the lobby for the theater, which will seat about 300 people, or about 400 standing room only. We’ve also built in a lot of flexibility with a retractable seating system. We’ll have a flat floor, so we’ll also be able to hold conferences, and visual arts groups.”

Sherman said they have been working with local nonprofit groups including the opera, choral groups and other local artists. He said he is excited to serve those groups, while bringing a sustainable for-profit model to the venue, which has a long, and storied history in the Yampa Valley.

“We’re delivering an actual for-profit model to investors, but we’ve also got a not-for-profit in town involved with our project,“ Sherman said. “So there’s really a dual approach to the economic success of this project.”

Sherman said that with the plans in place, and investors coming onboard, the next step will be the start of the renovation process. He said that some light demolition has already taken place, but those passing by will start to see more work hopefully by this summer.

“We’re watching what’s happening from a fundraising standpoint in town for not-for-profits and for investment projects,” Sherman said. “We’re down to just trying to get our money raised, so that we launch in June. Other than that, we are ready to go.”

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