Steamboat group still optimistic about Chief Plaza Theater deal |

Steamboat group still optimistic about Chief Plaza Theater deal

Friends of the Chief hopes to purchase, remodel historic theater

Jim Cook was the featured speaker Monday at the Steamboat Springs Community Center where he updated a group of seniors about plans to purchase and renovate the Chief Plaza Theater during a lunch hosted by the Routt County Council on Aging.

— After eight months of incubation, the community-driven bid to purchase the historic Chief Plaza Theater has yet to hatch, but proponent Jim Cook told a group of senior citizens Monday that he remains optimistic.

"I still think we'll come to agreement," Friends of the Chief spokesman Cook said.

Jon Sanders, of Ski Town Commercial, confirmed Monday that his client, theater owner Michael Barry, still is committed to making the deal with Friends of the Chief work.

The lease of current tenant Carmike Cinemas is up in 2012.

Sanders said there has been a meaningful exchange of thoughts between himself and Friends of the Chief member Valerie Stafford within the past 60 days.

The purchase, remodeling and conversion of the historic movie theater into a single-screen room, that also could host 450 people for community arts and touring musicians performances, is expected to cost $6 million to 8 million. Cook said Friends of the Chief hopes to raise $2 million to 3 million and use a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant, which is tailored toward small cities seeking to acquire cultural facilities, to leverage the purchase.

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Cook gave 15 seniors citizens gathered for lunch at the Steamboat Springs Community Center a detailed vision of what the remodeled theater might someday look like, including stage dimensions and a VIP area on the balcony level. He also showed schematics by local architect Bill Rangitsch that reveal a creative design allowing the elevated main seating floor to be temporarily leveled and the seats removed in order to accommodate special events such as wedding receptions.

The purchase of the Chief was contracted in August 2010 and fell out of contract in November 2010.

In the meantime, Cook said that the documents that would make Friends of the Chief a Colorado 501(c)(3) have been prepared by attorney Ward Van Scoyk and that the only document needed to put the favorable terms of a USDA loan in place is a feasibility study.

Short of that feasibility study, Cook said, Friends of the Chief members have talked with small community theater operators across the country and have been reassured that their business plan could work. The fiscal foundation of the theater would rely significantly on attracting touring performance groups to drive ticket sales, he said. A cafe in the front lobby would be open seven days a week to generate steady revenues.

"It turns out 450 seats is the magic number for bringing in touring groups," Cook said Monday. He added that he thinks Friends of the Chief can host community productions at no fee.

— To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205 or email

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