Hale Center Theater Orem gets $1 million pledge from Woodbury Corp

Conceptual rendering of new Hale Center Theater Orem proposed to be built at University Place.  The mall has pledged $1 million toward that effort. Courtesy art

For nearly five years, Hale Center Theater Orem has been dreaming and seeking funding help to build a bigger theater in Orem.

On Tuesday, the Orem City Council got a report on how the fundraising is going and how the theater has been doing during the pandemic.

It was in December of 2018 that University Place and the Woodbury Corporation, in conjunction with Orem, announced a proposed $1 million pledge to the Hale Center Theater Orem. The theater also would be provided a new location adjacent to the Orchard Park on the University Place campus.

The proposed new facility would be built in the parking lot just north of The Orchard with a south-facing entrance. A restaurant pad and office building would be next door.

According to a joint press release by Woodbury and Hale Center Theater Orem, the theater development plans include a 568-seat theater with a proscenium thrust stage, which allows audience members on three sides of the stage, a black box theater that would seat 200, a grand lobby and more.

Renderings show a mezzanine and main floor with two basement levels. There is room for offices, expanded costume shop, green room and vocal practice rooms as well.

The theater would grow from the current 11,000 square feet to about 64,000 square feet, with 316 parking stalls compared to about 87 available now, with some overflow.

Despite the challenges presented by the pandemic, there is still hope the project will come to fruition.

“We’re still excited and grateful to be in business,” said Jeff Fisher, director of development for Hale. “It has been a challenging year since March 15.”

Fisher said the theater had closed for a while and then opened with options to stream online productions.

‘We lost more than $1 million in revenues,” Fisher said. “Thanks to the CARES Act, we got it back.”

Fisher told the council that even during the pandemic the Hale received $2.5 million in donations for the new theater. With money from the county and state, the project still needs to secure an additional $6 million in funding.

Fisher believes that is doable and noted the pandemic set them back about eight to 12 months.

The Hale Center Theater Orem had considered bonding earlier on, but interest rates were too high when the project started.

“Bond rates have come down so far it’s a bit of a game changer,” said Cody Swenson, executive director.

According to Mayor Richard Brunst, the rates are down 40%, however, the 10-year bonds just saw an increase.

Fisher and Swenson said they might revisit that option.

Hale Center Theater Orem sees about 150,000 patrons each year — a figure that is anticipated to double with the new theater.

Until COVID-19, HCTO was filling its 300 seats nearly every night. The requirements of social distancing clearly took a toll on that number.

Along with the new theater, a new hotel has also been delayed.

A Marriott Suites hotel also was announced, to be constructed in the area formerly housing the Utah Transit Authority bus station. The hotel and an office building were to have been under construction by the end of 2019.

If Hale Center Theater Orem can get on the fast track and the financing by donors in place, it is believed that the new theater could be under construction by 2022.

Hale Center Theater Orem has been in its current location at 400 N. 225 West since May 1990. Depending on the show, it can seat between 280 and 303. Most shows are presented as theater-in-the-round. The new facilities are intended to keep that intimate theater experience.

Daily Herald reporter Genelle Pugmire can be contacted at gpugmire@heraldextra.com, (801) 344-2910, Twitter @gpugmire

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