Conroe considers feasibility of new performing arts center


Updated 10:05 a.m. Sept. 13: The story originally said the theater will seat 12,000.

Following ongoing discussions last year about needing to assess the feasibility of building a new performing arts center, the city of Conroe has received details on what the project might entail and cost.

Garfield Public Private President Greg Garfield presented a feasibility study for a new performance arts center at the Sept. 11 Conroe City Council workshop, based on feedback from local arts groups. The report—which identified possible cost, location, size and scope of the project—was conducted by Garfield Public Private, Schuler Shook Theater Consultants and SMG-Performing Arts Group.

The study suggests the most profitable venue option would be a 1,200-seat theater at three possible locations: The northwest quadrant of I-45 and FM 3083, the Spirit of Texas Plaza and Grand Central Park, Garfield said.

“You’ve got some great [performing arts]facilities here … but they’ve got some limitations that are limiting the arts group from growing their audience and growing their programming,” he said. “So the need is indicated for a new performing arts center to help compliment this arts community.”

Local theater and performing arts groups—including Christian Youth Theater, Stage Right and Conroe Live—were interviewed for the report, and many indicated they would use the facility, Garfield said. The report recommended a facility with a 1,200-seat main performance hall, an 8,000-sq.-ft. multipurpose room and on-site storage space.

“We’re talking about a state-of-the-art, new, first-class, well-equipped facility that can be scaled for various production sizes,” he said. “It’s up to Conroe when and if you decide to proceed with a performing arts center, but our philosophy is you generally don’t build a church for Easter Sunday.”

The development could cost between $66 million-$89 million—a number that drew murmurs of shock from council members—or $720 per square foot on the low end.

In addition to development costs, the venue would need an estimated contributed income of $300,000 the first year, which would decline to about $116,000 in the fifth year as activity and profits ramped up.

“You need to understand that—like most other performing arts centers—in addition to finding a way to pay for the development costs, there’s probably going to be a need for some contributed income or subsidy from the city,” Garfield said.

Garfield also discussed the need to bring more restaurants and shops to Conroe to compliment a new performing arts center.

“You want economic development—you don’t want people coming right before the show, parking right in front of theatre, walking in the theater and going home,” he said. “Ideally, you’d like them coming in and parking within several blocks of the theater … stopping at a bar to have a drink, stopping at a restaurant after the show.”

Council members asked Garfield questions about the details and costs of the performing arts center but did not indicate when or if they might pursue the project.

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Eva Vigh
Eva Vigh joined Community Impact Newspaper in 2018 as a reporter for Spring and Klein. Prior to this position, she covered upstream oil and gas news for a drilling contractors' association.
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