Theater gets thumbs up | SteamboatToday.com
Christine Metz

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Theater gets thumbs up

City approves six-screen cinema after architecture debate

The Steamboat Springs City Council approved a six-screen movie theater with stadium seating, but not before debating its architecture.

Developer Whitney Ward presented the final and architectural plans for the Wildhorse Stadium Cinema on Tuesday night. The two-story, 13,000-square-foot theater with six screens and stadium seating will go into the new Wildhorse Marketplace.

Ward proposed architecture similar to the buildings already in the complex, such as the Gart Sports building and the recently opened Quiznos and Ben and Jerry’s shops.

Councilman Ken Brenner worried about that plan, noting the Gart building already has elicited some negative feedback.

“I can’t remember a project that has caused more debate about architecture than the building right next door,” Brenner said. “Because of the location that is so visible, we have to try harder, we have to be better (about the architecture).”

The movie theater would use building materials similar to those used for the Quiznos building; it also would have false windows on the upper floor to give the movie theater a sense of transparency, as well as landscaping to avoid the appearance of a big-box building.

Other council members said that they also received comments about the architecture of the existing buildings, but they thought changing the design would be the wrong move for a project that is much-needed in the community.

“A drastic change in architecture would do a total disservice to this project. I do think we have enough public benefit,” Councilwoman Nancy Kramer said. “I am really excited about having this high of a quality of theater.”

Ward was not asking for any variances from the code. Because a movie theater is not a permitted use in the zoning district, it had to go through the planned-unit development process. The PUD process requires developers to show the public benefit of their projects.

Ward said that he would contribute $15,000 for a trail along Mount Werner Road under U.S. Highway 40 connecting the Yampa River Core Trail and the Mount Werner Road bike path.

The theater also is close to a transit center that serves Steamboat Springs Transit buses and shuttles.

Marshall Smith, who remodeled and expanded the downtown theater in the mid-1990s, will be the theater operator of Wildhorse Stadium Cinema. He said part of the vision is to bring in art films and festivals. A larger theater with nicer seats also will prevent people from going to Denver or Eagle County to watch movies, he said.

“This town doesn’t have a world-class theater, and it deserves it,” he said.

— To reach Christine Metz call 871-4229 or e-mail cmetz@steamboatpilot.com