All the arts under one roof

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COEUR d’ALENE — If Coeur d’Alene had an 800-seat performing arts center it would likely require a $420,000 annual subsidy to keep afloat.

The numbers come from the latest draft of a feasibility study meant to ascertain if Coeur d’Alene is a suitable place for a performing arts center operated by the city.

The $63,000 study — which required three months of data collecting by HVS, a Chicago-based convention, sports and entertainment facilities consulting service — was initiated in February and gauged input from the local performing arts community, its patrons and the general populace.

What the study found so far is Coeur d’Alene has a thriving performing arts community comprised of more than 20 theatre, music, opera and dance groups. Many of the groups rent space to practice, and they usually perform in venues including the Kroc Center, North Idaho College, outside in the summer, in churches, the Lake City Playhouse and other smaller, inconspicuous spaces.

There isn’t a place to bring them under one roof.

A performing arts center could accomplish that, while also bolstering the local economy as it draws visitors to the city.

City council member Kiki Miller said the latest draft of the study initiated by Ignite Cda is not the final word in whether a Coeur d’Alene performing arts center is a viable idea.

Consultants will gather public comment on the study through Sept. 16. It can be found on the city’s website, and comments can be sent to Catherine Sarrett at csarrett@hvs.com.

“There is still a lot that needs to be done,” Miller said.

One of the next steps is to gather a group of stakeholders to review the comments and make suggestions before consultants turn out a final study.

“That group of people hasn’t convened yet,” she said.

The draft shows cities of similar size with performing art centers — including Idaho Falls, where an 1,800-seat center opened in 1952; the 1,200-capacity Mother Lode Theater in Butte, Mont.; the 1,100-seat George and Jane Dennison Center in Missoula; and the Bing Crosby Theater in Spokane that seats 750.

Although the Coeur d’Alene study shows that a local center would likely run at a loss of $420,000 annually, theatres often operate at a loss which is made up through endowments, council member Dan Gookin said.

The $420,000 projected loss is within the range of operating losses observed in other venues of similar size nationally, said the draft study.

The money would have to be made up with taxes and donations, Gookin said, and in the current climate, the city isn’t likely to move ahead with such a proposal.

“I’m not giving up on the idea,” Gookin said. “It has merit. The question is always funding.”

Gookin said if the center was built, there are enough local groups to have performances 340 days each year.

“There would be demand,” he said.

Where to build such a center is among the questions left unanswered in the draft, as well as how to fund the facility. At least for the near future, the city’s focus is on the development of the Atlas Mill site, Gookin said.

In the end, the public would decide if it wants a performing arts center.

“It would definitely have to go to a public vote,” he said.

To view the report on the city’s website, find the “Latest News” tab and scroll down to “Performing Arts Feasibility Study.”

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