Chief Plaza Theater in Steamboat goes under contract

Group secures $50,000 for building

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— The Friends of the Chief group has secured the necessary funding to put the Chief Plaza Theater under contract, the first step in converting it to a downtown performing arts center.

The community-based group secured $50,000, which equals the earnest payment that was due by Thursday according to the terms of the deal reached with theater owner Michael Barry.

“We have got that, and we have got more, actually,” Friends of the Chief spokesman Jim Cook said. “We’ve still got a long ways to go, so it’s a start.”

Cook said securing the earnest money for the theater gives Friends of the Chief time to begin its application for a U.S. Department of Agriculture grant to assist with the actual purchase and theater renovation as well as to begin fundraising.

“It just gives us an opportunity to begin in earnest,” Cook said. “We’ve been working on a hope and a prayer for three years. This is a big step.”

Friends of the Chief has planned a $6 million to $8 million renovation that would convert the 1920s-era, four-screen theater to a single-stage performing arts center with 450 seats. The listing price once was $2.9 million.

The Chief was a single-stage theater with 600 seats when Barry bought it in 1970.When reached last month from his home in Lakeside, Mont., Barry praised the Friends of the Chief’s plans to renovate the historic theater.

“They want to bring it back to the way the Chief was when it was first built,” he said. “I think a venue like that is sorely needed in Steamboat.”

The USDA grant requires a pre-application, which is due Oct. 1, Cook said. He said if it’s approved, which the group has been assured it would be, they then would submit a formal application and feasibility study, which could cost as much as $30,000.

Cook said in the short term, Friends of the Chief needs to raise $100,000 to pay for the feasibility study and other requirements of the USDA application.

He said the group would need the support of the community. By the time it’s completed, the Chief would be a multiuse facility for performing arts, concerts, wedding receptions and more.

Mainstreet Steamboat Spri­­ngs Manager Tracy Barnett in an email invited members of the community to join Friends of the Chief board members for a celebration from 5 to 7 p.m. Friday at Sweetwater Grill.

“The vision of a cultural and performing arts venue in downtown Steamboat is one step closer to reality,” she said in the email.

To reach Jack Weinstein, call 970-871-4203 or email jweinstein@SteamboatToday.com

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