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Mayor: city will not go all out for theater

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Don't expect the City of Rochester to swoop in with a sweet offer to convince RBTL to build its new theater in downtown 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 has not raised money to demonstrate that the theater project is credible, Richards says. 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.

RBTL board chair Arnie Rothschild says the organization has never tried to raise money for a new theater in the city. City officials haven't expressed a real interest in the project, he says.

Richards says the whole thing shouldn't fall on the city's shoulders. Even though the Aud is in the city, a new theater would serve the broader region. But 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, Richards says.

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