Enterprise zone tax credits help free Steamboat’s Chief Theater of unwanted pole | SteamboatToday.com

Enterprise zone tax credits help free Steamboat’s Chief Theater of unwanted pole

The Chief Theater marquee in downtown Steamboat Springs in an earlier era. The theater will close for several weeks to allow the removal of a pole in the midst of the seating area.

— The Arctic has the North Pole, hair cutters have barber poles and in spring, people dance around the May Pole. But no one in Steamboat Springs will miss the structural pole in the middle of the seating area at the venerable Chief Theater when it is removed in a few weeks.

Scott Parker, executive director of the Chief, confirmed Monday the theater will close April 11 for about four weeks to allow Fox Construction to remove the obnoxious pole (actually, it's a rectangular post) that has supported the ceiling in the 1927 theater. Parker added that Bill Rangitsch, of Steamboat Architectural Associates, has helped with the design work and ensuring the new truss is up to the task.

Though necessary, the pole has interfered with audiences' ability to see the full stage in what is otherwise an intimate venue for the arts. Now, it is due to be replaced with a glue-laminated truss that will span the ceiling and greatly improve the the concert-going experience at the theater. If all goes as planned, the Chief may be ready to host the traditional mud season performance of Cabaret in mid-May, Parker said. The pole is worthy of its own comedy skit.

"The comedians who come to town like to play it up," Parker said. "One guy offered to perform two shows — one for the people on the left of the pole and another for those on the right."

But, "it's an obstruction, and people can't enjoy a show as much as they should because of it," Parker added. "The biggest impact is when you watch live theater. You miss out on a lot of the action. If there's a band playing, and you're sitting in the wrong spot, you can't see the bass player at all."

So, the pole is soon to be no more. But there's still the matter of paying the estimated $65,000 cost for its removal and the installation of the new truss.

Recommended Stories For You

Friends of the Chief Board President Alice Klauzer said this week that a 30-day crowd funding effort — with the goal of raising $10,000 — is underway through tilt.com at the Chief's web page, and people may also use PayPal to make donations.

Klauzer, who is the development director for Alpine Bank, said her institution has pledged $30,000 and will make full use of the Friends of the Chief's new eligibility as part of a state enterprise zone to offer donors a tax credit.

Donors who are able to give the Chief $1,000 or more will have access to the tax credits.

Parker noted that Erica Lee, of Yampa Valley Bank, guided Friends of the Chief through the process of qualifying for the enterprise zone. Steamboat Architectural's Erica Hewitt did much of the paperwork.

Klauzer said this week that, after three years of functioning as a community venue, the theater is operating in the black, giving the Chief the credibility to pursue grant monies in the future.

With the pole literally and figuratively out of the way, Klauzer said, the theater's next project will be to convert one of the former small metroplex screening theaters into a legitimate green room for visiting artists.

To reach Tom Ross, call 970-871-4205, email tross@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @ThomasSRoss1

The Chief at a glance

• The theater was purchased by the nonprofit Friends of the Chief for $1.45 million in October 2012, with help from private investors. Ultimately, a husband and wife purchased the theater with the intent of holding it for the nonprofit.

• The Chief was built by the noted early 20th century Steamboat builder, Arthur E. Gumprecht, and was originally owned by Harry “Chief” Gordon, a man of Native American ethnicity, who reportedly made a fortune in lead, zinc and silver mining in Oklahoma.

• The theater, which opened in 1927, had an orchestra pit and a player piano.

• Michael Barry purchased the theater in 1970. It was remodeled in 1987, replacing the single theater with two theaters, each with approximately 100 seats, and two more smaller theaters with 50 seats each.