UPDATE: In a voice mail earlier today, RBTL board chair Arnie Rothschild said that the league has never attempted to raise money for a new theater, because city officials have never come out and said they want the theater. RBTL wouldn't fund raise, he said, until the city made the theater project a priority.
Rothschild also corrected a mistake in the original version of this blog. The new theater would have 3,000 seats, not 2,400.
Don’t expect the City of Rochester to swoop in with a sweet offer to convince RBTL to build its new theater in Rochester. If RBTL is serious about going to Irondequoit, Mayor Tom Richards says, it’ll go with his blessing.
“I’m trying to be consistent with respect to what I think the civic responsibility is to this project,” he says. “It would be nice if [the theater] was downtown. It would be nice it if was in Midtown. But not at any price. Because while it’s important, it’s not necessarily the most important thing.”
Developer Scott Congel has agreed to build a 3,000-seat theater for RBTL as part of his massive Medley Centre project. Congel would also pay off the debt on the Auditorium Theatre, which RBTL owns, and pay for renovations to the Aud. RBTL would continue to own the Aud, which would be used for smaller performances.
RBTL needs to raise money to show that the theater project is credible, Richards says, but has not done so. For a $70 million to $80 million theater, the RBTL would need to come up with approximately $10 million or $20 million in private funds, Richards says. RBTL would also have to find a way to cover any operating deficits the theater incurs, he says.
And the city shouldn’t be the only one on the hook, Richards says, even though the Aud is in the city. No one — politicians, Monroe County, state government, Finger Lakes Regional Economic Development Council — is stepping up with money or offers of support for RBTL’s new theater, he says.
“We could never swing this by ourselves, no matter what,” Richards says. “It would have to be something that the community comes together on and does.”
“I’m not going to get into a stampede, where somebody says, ‘Oh my gosh, it might go out to Irondequoit. You’ve got to come up with $80 million,’” he says. “If they can get some guy to pay for the whole thing and subsidize them, I guess that’s where they’re going to go.”