State bill

9/9/2013

Theater still has a chance under right circumstances.

Theater still has a chance under right circumstances.

Mark Pamplin knew revitalizing the State Theatre in downtown Garden City would be a huge undertaking.

He's found out just how daunting such an ambitious project can be.

Late last year, the Holcomb resident pitched a plan to turn the historic property into a privately funded, 400-seat theater-in-the-round venue for concerts and performances.

But his plan to enlist willing private investors in an estimated $3 million venture has fallen well short of the goal, leading him to instead partner with Garden City Arts and pursue nonprofit status in order to seek donations, grants and other funding sources.

The Garden City Commission in February gave Pamplin six months to raise funds for the project. During last week's city commission meeting, Pamplin requested a one-year extension, which the commission will consider and should grant.

Pamplin said he believes he could scale down the initial cost estimate, and has drawn inspiration from a new theater construction in California.

A success story in a much closer locale also is worth a look.

Several years ago in Emporia, renovation of the historic Granada Theatre was powered by a public campaign that raised some $2.8 million.

Local businesses and individuals not only donated dollars, they also pitched in with necessary goods and services to get the job done. Their sweat equity paid off in a new, multiuse community facility that became a catalyst for more development in that city's downtown district.

Likewise, a renovated State Theatre open year-round would give people more reasons to frequent the downtown district. Knowing the theater also could accommodate events organized by the Garden City Recreation Commission, which has occasionally used the theater for various productions, would make the plan even easier to support.

Either way, Pamplin has a challenging road ahead.

While it would be easy to dismiss his quest, it's encouraging to see the interest in giving a piece of Garden City history a shot at a long-running sequel that would benefit the downtown district and community as a whole.

Pamplin's willingness to modify his plan as a way to gain more realistic community support could be the difference.

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