Steamboat's Chief Plaza Theater purchase is in limbo

Friends of the Chief group says it isn’t much closer to closing deal on downtown building

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— Four months after they went under contract to purchase Steamboat Springs’ historic downtown movie theater, the Friends of the Chief aren’t much closer to closing the deal than they were at the end of August.

“We’re kind of in limbo right now,” Friends spokesman Jim Cook said. “We’ve had an appraisal, and it’s well below the asking price.”

Friends is seeking a price reduction based on what Cook said is a large gap between the asking price of $2.87 million and the appraisal.

The community group hopes to acquire the Chief Plaza Theater from owner Michael Barry and refurbish it from a small multiplex into the single-stage theater it once was. The plan is to make it more of a performance venue. The entire project, including the purchase, is expected to cost about $8.8 million. Remodeling plans include the addition of balcony seating to bring the total capacity to as many as 470 people.

The theater is operated by Carmike Cinemas under a lease that runs through 2012.

Cook previously had declined to name the purchase price but confirmed by phone Friday that the contract reflects the full asking price with the caveat that the final sale price is negotiable pending the appraisal.

Friends is pursuing a two-stage federal U.S. Department of Agriculture loan for the purchase and then the remodeling. Cook said the federal loan process depends heavily on the appraisal and leaves little wiggle room.

“They could ask for a second appraisal, and if the difference was 10 percent,” there might be a middle ground, Cook said. “Our appraisal was done by Bob Maddox (of Valuation Consultants Inc.), and for that reason I have a lot of faith in it.”

Commercial broker Jon San­ders, of Ski Town Commercial Real Estate, represents Barry in the negotiations and told the Steamboat Today in mid-November that although he maintained hope the deal with Friends could be consummated by the end of 2010, he had two more buyers waiting in the wings.

“If he has buyers who will pay the asking price, they should do it,” Cook said Friday. “But they’ll have to get an appraisal, too.”

Sanders was unavailable for comment this week.

The members of Friends are interested in making the theater an entertainment magnet for the historic downtown shopping and restaurant district on Lincoln Avenue.

The original Chief was in its prime from 1932 until the early 1960s.

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