The Wood River Valley has an arts and cultural scene fitting for a community double or even triple its size. Visitors and residents alike spend long, lazy summers lounging on the grass with a glass of good red wine, listening to renowned musicians at the Sun Valley Pavilion. They pack kids into the car and treat them to popcorn and a show-stopping rendition of “A Year With Frog and Toad” every year at the Liberty Theatre, courtesy of Sun Valley Center for the Arts. They’ll mingle with Hollywood greats and up-and-comers to enjoy four days of new, thought-provoking films at the Sun Valley Film Festival.
NexStage Theatre is one of those local institutions providing quality performances, hosting dozens of local nonprofits every year. And now, in the ultimate upgrade led by the new nonprofit Sun Valley Performing Arts Center, the aging theater will be razed. It will transform into the 25,000-square-foot, three-story, Argyros Performing Arts Center over the next year and a half, opening to the public in fall 2018. Named for benefactors and longtime Sun Valley homeowners Julia and George Argyros, it is slated to offer an immersive theater experience with two theaters, a gathering space and cafe.
This project has been over a year in the making, with significant community involvement. Sun Valley Performing Arts board member and project champion Tim Mott said the goal is to create a flexible space that fills in the gaps other facilities cannot accommodate.
“The value of those community-wide contributions are seen in three key attributes of the new building design: the cafe/lobby, the small theater and the main theater being configurable into a 4,500-square-foot flat floor event space. None of those were originally anticipated, but we heard loud and clear that people wanted an arts-oriented gathering place open daily, that there was a need for a small theater, in particular, for educational workshops, and there was really a need for an event space for banquets, cabarets, dances, etcetera.”
Mott said the new theater will integrate with the Valley’s numerous theatrical and musical offerings while also bringing in new talent.
“First and foremost, this new world-class venue will serve local audiences by not only enhancing their experience of local performing arts productions—such as from Laughing Stock, The Spot, Company of Fools—but also by bringing in touring performances of all kinds that we cannot book right now due to the restrictions of the current venue,” he said.
The nonprofit is continuing to raise money for the project, which is estimated to cost more than $10 million.
“For the last several months, the campaign committee has been busy fundraising and we have about two-thirds of what’s needed, so we’re sufficiently confident in that effort to start construction,” Mott said. “We anticipate starting construction in June 2017, finishing about 15 months later, and having a gala opening in the fall of 2018.”
The theater’s centrally located site on the southern end of Ketchum’s Main Street joins other new ventures taking up residence in Ketchum: the new Limelight Hotel and Auberge Resort Sun Valley expected to open in 2019.
Mott is hopeful that the Argyros Performing Arts Center will diversify the local economy.
“Not only will the new performing arts center provide additional cultural, educational and social benefits in the community, but (it) will also help to build a more sustainable economy here. As a small mountain resort town heavily dependent on tourism, we have two main assets to draw on: first, an amazing landscape which we already greatly benefit from, and second, a cultural tradition where we believe we can do better. Culturally-oriented visitors are known to stay longer and spend more than the average; this center will become a focal point for performances and festivals of all kinds that will draw visitors to the area year-round.”