The Garden City Telegram
10/6/2012
OPINIONS AND COMMENTARY

State sequel

Public support could be catalyst for new venture.

Occasional events have brought life to an otherwise vacant State Theater in downtown Garden City.

Concerts and movies have been among the public events at a theater without a regular tenant for years.

More offerings are on the way in the Fall Murder Mystery play "Deadly Nightcap," which opens Thursday and runs through Oct. 14, and Oct. 18 in the movie parody "The Rocky Horror Picture Show."

Such events let the public see for themselves the potential of a city-owned property in limbo for various reasons — not the least of which would be the cost to renovate the facility that was built in 1929.

So, it will be interesting to see what ideas emerge as the city of Garden City accepts formal proposals for its use, which city commissioners will consider.

A State Theater renovation project could go in different directions. For one, bringing it back to life as a setting for not only movies and concerts, but also meetings and other gatherings could turn it into a multi-use community facility that makes downtown Garden City more of a destination.

While it's impossible to know what kind of proposals might materialize, the city shouldn't rule out a public-private partnership breathing new life into the State Theater.

Or, perhaps there's potential for a project mirroring an impressive development in Emporia, where renovation of the historic Granada Theatre — also built in 1929 — was powered by a public campaign that raised some $2.8 million.

Businesses and individuals pitched in with dollars and in-kind contributions to get the job done in Emporia, a city comparable to Garden City. Individuals and business operators here also have a record of showing support for projects they believe in by contributing their time, expertise and money.

That said, should a viable, self-sufficient business plan — one that makes sense in downtown Garden City — be submitted, the City Commission's decision could be an easy one.

Short of that, city officials should be open to the kind of creative partnership that generates a strong show of public support, and helps the historic theater enjoy a long-running sequel that benefits the downtown district and community as a whole.