New future for the State




An idea to turn the nearly 84-year-old State Theater in downtown Garden City into a state-of-the-art, 400-seat theater-in-the-round with year-round performances proved attractive to the Garden City Commission on Tuesday.

Instead of scheduling formal presentations next month, the commission decided the theater-in-the-round proposal was the better of two proposals for future use of the facility due in part to the fact that it would put the facility in private hands.

"We're talking private money vs. public money. I think both are great proposals, it's just private vs. public," Commissioner John Doll said. "And we won't own that building no more."

Built in 1929, the State Theater, 418 N. Main St., was used as a theater until December 1999 when it was donated to the city. This past October, the city asked the public for proposals for doing something with the building, and two were received by the deadline.

The Garden City Recreation Commission proposed using the theater much as it has the past two years, as a performing arts facility for community theater, after-school drama club, movie nights and music concerts. It proposed $591,000 in renovations financed through city and GCRC operating budgets, capital improvement funding and donations. The city still would own the property.

Instead, the commission decided to move forward with a proposal from Holcomb resident Mark A. Pamplin, who proposed an estimated $3 million renovation project that would gut the interior and create a central stage surrounded by seating on the first floor, and turn the second floor into rehearsal and office space.

Pamplin, a 1987 graduate of Garden City High School, said the project would be funded entirely by private investment, and season ticket sales would cover annual operating and production costs. He estimated it could take about six months to arrange private financing.

Once completed, Pamplin envisions seven productions per year, running five to seven weeks each, as well as an annual Christmas show and Saturday morning children's programs. Between productions, one-night events like stand-up comedy or musical concerts could be booked.

In response to questions from the commission, Pamplin said he was willing to work with the rec commission on scheduling use of the facility for GCRC youth programs, and would encourage it. Pamplin's proposal mentioned possibilities including theater summer camps for children and teens, children's theater and youth productions, spring and Christmas programs, dance recitals and children's choir.

But Pamplin said he doubts professional touring companies would be booked.

"The high school is bigger for any professional tours. I'd just be using local talent from surrounding communities," he said. "We've got a lot of talent here for the type of shows we'd be doing."

Commissioners indicated both proposals had merit and they weren't knocking the GCRC proposal.

"I look at it as a very unique thing, this concept," Mayor David Crase said. "I think it would be a good draw for the community. The only thing is if we could work somehow hand-in-hand with the Recreation Commission, we can get something more out of it."

Brian Seagraves, GCRC arts director, said Pamplin's proposal looked great and he wouldn't argue with the city's decision, but he expressed concern about finding open times on the schedule for GCRC uses.

"We will probably just stop doing community theater as far as adults and let him handle that, and we would focus more on youth theater, utilizing whatever time he could give us," he said. "There just may be other things we may not be able to do, like films and things like that. We'll just change what we do."

Commissioner Dan Fankhauser said Pamplin's proposal would put the property back on the tax rolls for the city, and would definitely help revitalize downtown.

According to information from the city, the building's current appraised value is $308,510, which would bring $3,007 in property taxes using the 2013 mill levy. A renovated building would increase the value, resulting in additional tax revenue.

Fankhauser said the city wouldn't deed the property to Pamplin until Pamplin does his fundraising. During that time, Fankhauser said, the rec commission could continue to use the theater.

Over the next few months, the city will prepare an agreement with Pamplin that will spell out the details for the building transfer and each party's responsibilities, according to City Manager Matt Allen.

In other business Tuesday:

* A special commission meeting will be necessary to appoint a replacement for Commissioner John Doll because the commission will lack a quorum at the end of its Jan. 2 meeting, when Doll's resignation takes effect.

Doll, who was elected in November to represent Kansas House District 123, resigned from the commission effective at the end of the Jan. 2 commission meeting. Commissioners have received letters from seven people interested in serving the rest of Doll's term but only four members, including Doll, will attend the Jan. 2 meeting. Three commissioners is not sufficient to conduct business.

As a result, the commission scheduled a special meeting for 10 a.m. Jan. 8, to discuss applicants and make the appointment.

The seven applicants include Melvin Dale, a retired fire marshal; Matt Kirchoff, a commercial loan officer at Western State Bank; Troy Unruh, a partner in a local insurance agency; Harold Starr, a retired teacher; Jonathan Galia, chaplain at Tyson Foods; Jesse Waugh, a commercial applicator with Crop Production Services; and Kevin Campbell, an international safety consultant.

* The commission reconsidered the issue of giving employees next Monday as a paid day off. On Dec. 4, the commission, minus Doll, split 2-2 about the day off.

Doll said Tuesday the city had a good year in 2012 largely because of its employees, and they should get Monday off to spend time with family.

"It's a small way to say thank you to our employees," he said. "Yeah, it costs us a little bit of money but I feel our employees are much more important than a pittance of what it's going to cost our budget."

* The commission approved a proclamation declaring Dec. 18, 2012, as Broncbuster Football Day in recognition of the Garden City Community College football team's 31-29 win Dec. 1 over No. 7 Copiah-Lincoln in Biloxi, Miss., to become Mississippi Bowl champions. In addition, the proclamation recognized Head Coach Jeff Tatum for being named Kansas Jayhawk Community College Conference coach of the year, Quarterback Nick Marshall being named conference offensive player of the year, and the team's final No. 20 ranking in the National Junior College Athletic Association poll.

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