Civic Auditorium Group Touts Concept For Iris Theater; Funding, Business Plans Remain Uncertain
The Iris Theater will be transformed into a modern 1,150-seat performance hall and will transform downtown Casper itself, a board member of the Citizens for a Civic Auditorium said Tuesday.
"This site fits our, and hopefully your, vision for a new performance center," Bruce Bummer told supporters of the proposed Civic Auditorium in a former movie theater.
"The location of our new home not only enhances our utilization possibilities, it will serve as an anchor to the old Yellowstone downtown district, bringing people to shop, eat and explore downtown Casper," Bummer said.
Besides the main auditorium, the building will have a smaller flexible theater, support spaces, a small catering kitchen, and a place for other local arts groups, events such as conferences, parties and weddings, he said.
Meanwhile, the CCA needs to update its business plan and conceptual design; develop marketing plan including a website early next year; and launch a fundraising campaign.
Tuesday's welcome by Bummer and others marks the beginning of the third major attempt to create a civic auditorium, after attempts failed at the old Amoco refinery site now known as the Platte River Commons in 2007, and then downtown after Casper City Council balked at supporting its purchase of the Iris in late 2012.
Two weeks ago, the CCA entered a contract for deed to buy the Iris from owners Movie Palaces LLC. According to the memorandum filed with the Natrona County Clerk on Sept. 30, the deed will be transferred to the CCA after the group fulfills the “full performance” of the requirements on file at First Interstate Bank. The memorandum did not state any of those requirements such as what the CCA must do with the building or a payment schedule.
CCA board chairman Bill Maiers praised Movie Palace owners -- Mike Ito, Randy Pryde and Craig Hosey -- for help with the financing including reducing the price as a contribution to the project.
Maiers also thanked new and old board members, former U.S. Rep. Barbara Cubin for obtaining grant money from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, a substantial donation from a local couple who wished to remain anonymous, and the Cultural Trust Fund from the Wyoming Endowment for the Arts.
According to its 2012 IRS Form 990 for the year 2011, the most recent filed with Guidestar.org, the CCA had $174,697 in total revenue and $41,581 in expenses. The CCA's net assets were $663,335 as of June 30, 2012.
After the formal welcome, the CCA's new executive director Glenda Thomas said the organization will use one of the HUD grants, estimated to be $150,000, for initial work including remodeling the lobby and preparing offices for the CCA itself.
Neither Thomas nor the other speakers gave a figure about how much the project will cost, whether it will seek public funding, how much the auditorium will cost to maintain, or the number of staff needed to operate it. The CCA does plan to have an endowment, she said.
She knows the community may be skeptical of another attempt by the CCA to build its performance hall, she said.
"The frustration that people felt over the years, I apologize for," Thomas said. "I hope that through my work and my actions we can regain that trust, and move forward to do something that I believe that Casper really needs."