Silverthorne, Lake Dillon Theatre Company announce plans for $6 million complex
Birth of a theater
For Silverthorne and Lake Dillon Theatre Co., the recently announced partnership marks the beginning of a push for arts and cultural offerings in a new downtown core along Blue River Parkway. A quick glimpse at the project:
Fall 2014 — Silverthorne and LDTC enter discussions about a strategic partnership
March 2015 — Town and LDTC announce partnership, including construction of a new theater in the downtown core
May 2015 — Theater design work begins
Early 2016 — Theater construction begins
Early 2017 — Theater opens for performances
20 years — Projected term for partnership between town and LDTC
2,600 square feet — Size of current theater space in Dillon
14,000 square feet — Estimated size of new theater
$6 million — Estimated cost of new theater project (planning and construction)
$4 million — Town funding for project (general fund and financing)
$2 million — LDTC funding for project (capital fund and public campaigns)
Source: Town of Silverthorne. All figures and construction dates are preliminary.
After more than two decades in the heart of Dillon, the Lake Dillon Theatre Company is moving down the highway to Silverthorne, where a sprawling stage and theater space will become cultural cornerstones in a long-awaited downtown core.
On Tuesday, the town of Silverthorne and LDTC announced a long-term partnership set to begin in 2016. And it begins with a bang: Along with the partnership, the town also unveiled preliminary plans for a multipurpose theater to be built just steps from the Silverthorne Pavilion.
The theater, a 14,000-square-foot space roughly six times larger than LDTC’s current home in Dillon, is a joint project of the town and theater company. Officials estimate the project will cost $6 million including design, planning and construction, with the town paying roughly $4 million through financing and general fund contributions.
“The goals, the needs, the desires, the opportunities, the time lines — all of those factors between the town and the theater company just aligned,” Silverthorne town manager Ryan Hyland said. “We saw this as a huge win for both of us.”
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As outlined in the partnership agreement — one of several the town has entered into with local businesses, including the recently opened Bakers’ Brewery — the town will own the theater space, with LDTC acting as operator under a long-term lease. Although the partnership isn’t finalized, officials with both parties are pushing for a 20-year contract.
“This is exciting, but this is more than just a building,” LDTC executive director Josh Blanchard said. “We’re always looking at long-term financial stability, and from our perspective, along with our board, this will meet that goal. It’s a long-term partnership and that’s exactly what we wanted.”
Even in the early stages, LDTC and the town see the partnership and connected theater as major boons for both parties far into the future. Along with a stage for concerts and other events, the new building will include offices, rehearsal space, classrooms and a lobby.
As the theater company continues to grow — the 20th anniversary season in 2014 saw 47 different programs over 225 days — Blanchard has reached out to guest performers from New York City, Los Angeles and other major arts hubs across the U.S. They want to perform in the Colorado mountains, he says, but a new and greatly improved facility can attract even broader talent.
“These are people with Broadway experience, film experience, television experience, and now they’re working at our theater,” Blanchard said. “Performers and technicians are always very interested in the theaters where they work — they’ll do a ton of research through the Internet and social media. The performers are excited they can come work with a theater company that is growing and moving forward and getting ready for bigger things.”
On the Silverthorne side, Hyland believes the theater will set the stage (pun intended) for Phase 2 of the Town Center development project. The property, located between Second and Sixth avenues along Blue River Parkway, was purchased in 1980. Redevelopment in the projected downtown core began in 2006 with construction on mixed-use commercial and residential projects, along with the Silverthorne Pavilion — a precursor to the event-friendly theater.
When the town council signed off on comprehensive plan in 2014, the long-awaited downtown area became a top priority, beginning with a new dedication to the arts.
“This opportunity represents a significant catalyzing move to realize the downtown vision we’ve been working on for so many years,” Silverthorne Mayor Bruce Butler said in an announcement. “Silverthorne deserves a vibrant downtown, and this allows us to kick-start that rejuvenation process in a viable and meaningful way.”
A NEW HOME
The announcement comes as LDTC is in the final year of its partnership with Dillon, where the theater company was founded in 1994. Dillon offered LDTC $1.6 million in capital construction costs and a property next to the town amphitheater, but Blanchard and the LDTC board of directors felt moving to downtown Silverthorne was a better fit.
“In the end, we respect that with two competitive offers on the table, the Lake Dillon Theatre Company made a business decision to move to Silverthorne,” Dillon Mayor Kevin Burns said.
The new theater is a major step forward for LDTC. After a successful year in 2014, Blanchard said the theater company wanted to have facilities on par with its ambitious 2012 strategic plan. An extra 11,400 square feet of space can house a slew of programs, from stage plays to community acting classes.
“The community responded very well to our anniversary season,” Blanchard said. “We had sold-out performances, sold-out concerts, and there really is a need for this in the community. But you need resources, and part of that is space. This will allow us to breathe a bit.”
Perhaps the biggest perk for LDTC is more space behind the scenes. The stage and seating space at the current Dillon theater is 900 square feet, with seating for a maximum of 70 patrons and a cramped backstage dressing area. Most set construction is done outdoors, even in winter, and all rehearsals, classes and management meetings are held off site.
While the expansion gives his staff much-needed room to roam, Blanchard is working closely with Silverthorne throughout the planning process to build a facility on par with the theater company’s lakeside home. The building will tightly follow recently approved design standards for the town core, which is built around a “mountain modern” aesthetic to highlight steel, wooden accents and public spaces, including a nearby park area that could be used for outdoor performances.
“We certainly have an affinity to our current space,” Blanchard said. “Intimacy is one thing we’re known for — it’s our brand. But all of us are excited about this project, and we really are ready for the expanded space.”
THE ARTS CONNECTION
When Silverthorne built its comprehensive plan, town officials looked at other towns across the state to pinpoint community needs — and economic boosters.
A strong arts presence was a must, Hyland said, pointing to towns like Arvada on the Front Range and Salida in the southern Rockies.
Both of those towns have strong arts districts, and once construction on the theater begins, Silverthorne wants to pursue a Colorado Certified Creative District designation through the state.
“We told them this isn’t exactly a radical idea,” Hyland said of the theater conversations with town council. “It’s more about the best practices of other top cities and towns across the state. There’s a lot of literature about creative place making and the creative class, and you see that it really is an economic driver.”
Apart from initial planning and construction, which is slated to wrap up in early 2017, Hyland and Blanchard say, the theater will continue driving patrons and performers to Summit County. Both officials see LDTC as a regional attraction, much like the nearby Outlets at Silverthorne district and Murdoch’s Ranch and Home Supply.
“What we’ve always done with our programs is create a vibrant experience for our patrons,” Blanchard said. “When they come in the door, there’s always opportunities to interact with performers, just have an overall good package. That’s what destination theater does — it’s not just about going to a show and getting in your car when it’s over an leaving. It’s about everything else you can do between performances.”
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