Salvaging the State


City taking proposals on future use of the State Theater.

City taking proposals on future use of the State Theater.


Once a staple along downtown streets, ornate theaters used to be a highlight of entertainment. In Garden City, only one of the three entertainment houses that once captivated audiences still stands as a theater.

The State Theater, 418 N. Main St., opened on May 29, 1929, and until it's closing in 1999, was an entertainment haven for the people of Garden City, who to this day, have fond memories of the theater.

"I'm constantly hearing people say, 'I remember coming here as a kid,' or 'I remember working here when I was younger,' or 'My father used to manage the place,' or so many (other) connections," said Brian Seagraves, Garden City Recreation Commission arts director. "The city has so many connections to this building, it would be great if it continued to operate and serve the community."

Currently owned by the city of Garden City and used for a variety of community events, the building's fate is up in the air.

"Ideally, I would love to see it not necessarily restored to its former glory, but something similar and just as beautiful and to be used every week for something," Seagraves said. "We are going to put together a proposal to the city commissioners of how we think we need to proceed, and part of that is the community stepping up and telling the commission 'We think the State Theater is worth renovating.' We would like you to put some city money in to bring it back, and as a community."

With its fate yet unknown, what is not in question is the sense of nostalgia one gets driving by the no-longer-working marquee along Main Street.

"I have a big appreciation because I grew up with it and definitely want to see it used," said Brian Nelson, member of the Finney County Preservation Alliance and a Garden City native. "My grandparents came on dates here as I'm sure did my parents. Whenever we drive by with my grandma, she would say, 'I wish they would do something with that. It used to be so beautiful.'"

Long gone are the art deco furnishings that adorned the walls of the theater upon its opening, but the memories made over the years have been the driving force for those looking to restore one of Garden City's pieces of history.

"People talk about remembering getting their first kiss, and they can tell you exactly what seat they were sitting in. Other people talk about remembering the movie they first saw here; remember the movie they last saw here. People from just about every generation except for the youngest generation have some sort of memory from this building, it seems like," Seagraves said.

According to city documents, the building, which includes the small storefront at 422 N. Main St., is 10,000 square feet. It has a seating capacity of 411 in the main auditorium with space for an additional 94, as well as 86 seats in the balcony, with space for an additional 11.

The State Theater is currently available to rent for members of the public for a variety of events.

"We have hosted a sweet 16 party. We hosted weddings. We're hosting a private movie event that was auctioned off, so there are opportunities," Seagraves said. "We just want the community to feel like this is a place that can be used. ..."

There is no timeline of when or even if the theater will return to it's former glory, but both Seagraves and Nelson have hopes that someday a new generation will be able to make memories at the State.

"I would just love to see it up and running as a place to come see silver screen films and a place where people can come watch community theater, orchestras and concerts," Nelson said.

The city is requesting formal proposals for the use of the State Theater building.

The public may also offer suggestions to the City Commission for use of the State Theater.

Proposals will be received at the City Engineer's Office, 301 N. Eighth St., until 2 p.m. Dec. 13. Presentations to the city commission will then be scheduled in January. The proposal documents may be obtained from the City Engineer's Office. The documents are also available electronically. Email for further information.

"I think it will be a slow process, and it will have to receive somewhat of a kick-start from the city and community to really get some of the basic needs to be open on a full-time basis," Seagraves said. "It just basically needs some TLC to get it running and back up full-time."

The next event at the State Theater will start Thursday, when the Garden City Recreation Commission opens its fifth annual Fall Murder Mystery, "Deadly Nightcap," by Francis Durbridge.

The production will run from October 11 through 14. Then, on Oct. 18, the theater will play host to a special showing of the movie parody "The Rocky Horror Picture Show."

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