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Theater math


This story has been corrected.

Rochester City Council rushed to pass legislation last week to study a new downtown performing arts center because the city wants to take advantage of a state funding program. If the study says that the center is feasible, the city may be able to get funding for at least part of the project through Governor Andrew Cuomo's Upstate Revitalization Initiative.

The high-stakes competition will award $500 million each to three regions in Upstate New York. Regions have to submit their revitalization plans, including a list of the projects they want funded, by October 5.

Downtown revitalization is emerging as a key theme of the competition, so a downtown theater project could be a good fit.

Among the areas that the study will look at is the affordability of a theater and its potential economic impact.

Talk of a new performing arts center, of course, has been around for decades. But politics and finances have prevented a project from ever getting off the ground. A big stumbling block is the belief by many that the theater would require an operating subsidy.

That belief kept former Rochester mayor Tom Richards from fighting for the theater. Richards says that it would likely fall to the city to subsidize the facility, but that's unfair because the theater would benefit the entire region.

Arnie Rothschild, chair of the Rochester Broadway Theatre League, says that he believes the new study will show that the theater would not run a deficit. People who say that the theater would need a subsidy are using "Renaissance Square math," he says.

A study of the theater portion of the unsuccessful theater-transit station-MCC project showed the facility running a deficit. But a subsequent study did not call for a subsidy, Rothschild says. That study had the theater at Midtown.

RBTL would likely be the anchor tenant of the new theater, he says.