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Future of Lehi cultural arts center hangs on one family’s generosity

SHARE Future of Lehi cultural arts center hangs on one family’s generosity

A tentative plan by the Lehi Arts Council to build an $11 million cultural arts center in the heart of Lehi hinges on the philanthropist leanings of a wealthy Salt Lake family.

A multimillion-dollar gift from potential donors, whom Lehi Arts Council representatives decline to name until a deal is finalized, is the sole funding avenue available, officials say.Mayor Ken Greenwood is generally sweet on the idea, but doesn't favor constructing an 1,800-seat theater and community arts center with public funds.

"I think it would be great as long as the citizens don't have to pay for it with tax money," Greenwood said. "It will be great if they can round up the donations. I'll wave my hat and cheer them on. The whole thing comes down to the $11 million."

The arts council, a non-profit corporation separate from Lehi city, started pondering the proposal after a $17 million general-obligation bond for a recreation center, including an 1,000-seat theater, failed in November by a 4-1 margin.

Ray L. Carter, the council's development director, is spearheading plans for the arts center, which could be built by 2000 if a donation is made this year.

Carter, a Lehi native, hopes to see a five-story building with a multibalcony theater built between Center Street and 200 North, directly north of the Hutchings Museum.

"This single project will move everything around to the point where the library can expand, the senior citizens center will triple in size, because in population we are tripling," Carter said.

In addition to the theater, the complex could be built to house a senior citizen center for 10,000 people, practice studios, an art gallery, theater-in-the-round, a 248-seat smaller theater and office space, Carter said.

"This is just not a Lehi project," Carter said. "The only reason why Lehi is

entitled to something like this is because of (proximity).

"We are halfway between Salt Lake and Provo," he said. "We'll draw people out of Salt Lake County; we'll draw people out of the Provo area for performances."

Carter also dreams of booking traveling Broadway shows, those usually seen at Capitol Theater or the University of Utah's Kingsbury Hall. He also would like the Utah Regional Ballet to call the theater home.

Lehi's "Legacy of Living Art," which premiered this summer after a prolonged hiatus from the Utah arts scene, is hoped to be the staple production for the theater.

"We're not a rural place anymore," Carter said. "We are a bedroom community."

If Lehi is going to have to deal with growth, he asks with optimism, then why not add a gorgeous building that will promote the arts?

Greenwood said if the $11 million donation is secured, he and the City Council will entertain a proposal for use of the city-owned property on 200 North, which now is the site of a soccer field, an old tennis court, basketball courts and a parking lot.

The public also could be asked to cast ballots on the measure, he said.