Iron County approves $2 million for new Shakespeare festival art complex

Posted at 6:37 PM, May 13, 2013
and last updated 2013-05-14 00:37:32-04

IRON COUNTY – After 52 years performing at the Southern Utah University campus, directors of the Utah Shakespeare Festival say it’s time for a scene change.

The festival is planning to build a $31.6 million art complex that will include a new outdoor theater, rehearsal halls, a contemporary art museum and new festival offices.

“It’s a whole center, the center for the arts,” said Utah Shakespeare Festival Executive Director R. Scott Phillips. “What started out initially as a Shakespeare theater and some rehearsal halls has gotten larger.”

Phillips said the complex has been in the works for some time and comes out of the need to expand the growing festival.

“We’ve never had rehearsal halls,” Phillips said. “We’ve rehearsed wherever we could find space.”

The new complex will be called the Beverly Taylor Sorenson Center for the Arts, due to a $6 million donation from the Beverly Taylor Sorenson family. The complex will replace the festival’s long time home on the campus at SUU, moving the yearly event closer to downtown Cedar City.

Directors said they’ve procured funding for most of the steep price tag, but governments are filling in gaps. Iron County Commissioners pledged two million dollars toward construction on Monday. Commissioner Alma Adams said they recognize tourism is a major part of the local economy, and they are confident the complex will pay for itself.

“[It will] give people more to see when they’re here, and bring more people in,” Adams said. “And hopefully they’ll stay a little longer.”

The bonds will come from the county’s hotel and restaurant taxes. It’s a fund that’s separate from the general fund, and commissioners said it poses no risk to residents.

“If there was a default, which we don’t anticipate, there would just be a default,” Adams said. “It would not kick over into general funds.

The project is still in the early development stages. Phillips said they expect design concepts this summer, with construction beginning in 2014.