IVINS — Ivins City is pledging $10,000 per year to the Tuacahn Center for the Arts for the next 20 years and is encouraging other municipalities and Washington County to make similar commitments.
Tuacahn attracts thousands of visitors each year and brings an estimated $75 million in economic benefit to Washington County, Ivins Mayor Chris Hart said, but is in serious need of financing for critical maintenance and other capital improvements. Needs include: upgraded equipment, expanded seating and additional rehearsal and retail space, Hart said in a letter to county and city leaders.
Most residents don’t realize that Washington County receives a huge economic benefit from Tuacahn, Hart said, close to $75 million, which is second only to Zion National Park.
“We’re attracting about 265,000 people a year to see our shows,” Tuacahn CEO Kevin Smith said, with a half to two-thirds of those from outside the area.
Tuacahn has become a destination for visitors from out of the area, Hart said, in addition to a very popular evening activity for tourists who are visiting the national parks and other attractions.
“Because of the numbers of people we are attracting, we are now the largest theater in Utah,” Smith said.
Tuacahn is a professional theater that partners with Disney and hires professional actors.
The need for funding commitments is critical, Smith said, because Tuacahn could lose more than half a million dollars in private funding if the planned projects cannot be started soon.
Tuacahn has plans for needed expansion and upgrades and has been trying to raise the necessary funds privately, Hart said. However, efforts have fallen short of the amount needed to begin construction in November as planned. If the work can’t be completed, much of the money already raised will be lost.
The only reason they have done so well, and not needed more support from the community, Hart said, is that the Tuacahn facilities were built new 20 years ago, mostly funded by outright donations.
“In the long term, if we don’t do something, (Tuacahn) won’t be around,” Hart said.
Tuacahn is not a business, it’s a nonprofit
One problem, Hart said, is that a lot of people view Tuacahn as a successful business and wonder why it needs funding from public sources.
However, Tuacahn is not a business, but rather a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization, Hart said.
Throughout Utah, similar arts organizations regularly receive funding from both local and state governments, some getting more than a million dollars annually.
Tuacahn has been long overlooked, Hart said, and will simply not survive unless that dynamic changes.
Since its inception, Tuacahn has relied on donations, both large and small, and has paid more of its own costs than any other arts organization in Utah, Hart said, including the Utah Symphony and the Utah Shakespeare Festival.
But after being in use for 20 years, the theater’s needs are getting critical — the seating, parking lot, roofing and mechanical systems are wearing out; sound and lighting need to be updated with current technology, Hart said.
Public funding, benefits
Tuacahn has been overlooked for public funding, Smith said. For example, Hale Centre Theatre in West Valley City receives almost $700,000 each year through a tax that is similar to Washington County’s RAP tax, and other major arts organizations receive help from the Utah Legislature.
The need for funding is urgent, Hart said, because work must be done between November this year and April 2016; and work cannot begin until funds are committed to finish the projects.
The City of St. George and possibly Washington City are the greatest beneficiaries of hotel room tax and restaurant sales tax, Hart said in his letter to county and city leaders.
Ivins derives very little monetary benefit from Tuacahn, just sales tax on “drinks and hot dogs,” Hart said. However, Ivins and other smaller cities benefit in other ways; for example, Tuacahn was a big part of the decision by developers to build the new Sentierre Resort near Tuacahn.
The Ivins City Council is asking other government entities in the county to consider making a similar commitment of funds annually to enable Tuacahn to “secure bonding it desperately needs to construct the expansion and upgrades … necessary to ensure the vitality of this critical economic engine for the county well into the future.”
Ivins officials approved the $10,000 per year funding commitment for Tuacahn at a City Council meeting Thursday as part of a discussion about the RAP tax money the city will receive.
Because the RAP tax expires after 10 years, and will have to be approved again by voters, Ivins will take $5,000 “off the top” of the RAP tax proceeds each year and put it in an account created specifically to fund the city’s commitment to Tuacahn over the 20-year period.
Other RAP tax funds, which are estimated to be approximately $75,000 annually, will be divided into thirds and distributed equally to approved recreation, arts and parks projects.
People and organizations can apply to the city for funds during each calendar year.
The City Council will meet each January to consider the applications. RAP tax awards will be limited to entities located within Ivins or that provide significant tax revenue to Ivins.
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