A central piece of the Victorian Square puzzle is back on the board with the approval Feb. 27 of an agreement between the City of Sparks, Syufy Enterprises and Galaxy Theatres to bring the shuttered downtown theater back to life.
City of Sparks officials are excited to see the new theater, even though the project comes with a hefty price tag.
The city will provide $1 million in lodging tax proceeds upon the opening of all 14 auditoriums plus $100,000 per year for five years as long as the theater remains open to the public.
Syufy and Galaxy are required to invest $6.1 million.
City officials are quick to point out that the funding will not come out of the general fund but from a 2.5 percent lodging tax specifically designated for capital improvements at Victorian Square, the city of Sparks’ redevelopment area.
“This is not tax dollars being taken out of the general fund. This money is designated for tourism and revitalization downtown.” said Sparks Councilwoman Charlene Bybee, who chairs the committee in charge of the funds.
“I think it’s going to be a win for everyone,” she said. “It’s not just to have an anchor piece of our downtown open again... but the quality of the product is a step up.”
The theater with its classic art deco façade has been a Sparks landmark for decades and is an important piece of the rebirth of Victorian Square.
The Century 14 Theatre showed its last movie on Sept. 29, 2016, after Cinemark USA chose not to renew its lease with building owner Syufy Enterprises.
After a complete reconstruction of the interior, Galaxy’s new Victorian Square Cinema is slated to open sometime during the summer.
“You may recognize the outside, but you won’t recognize the inside,” said Frank Rimkus, CEO of Galaxy Theatre, LLC, who attended the council meeting to discuss plans for the theater. He spoke to the NNBW during a phone interview while waiting for his flight from Reno to Southern California following the meeting.
The Victorian Square theater will be Galaxy’s second theater in the area. The Sparks IMAX Luxury Theatre at the Outlets at Legends opened three years ago, raising the bar for theater venues in the region with gourmet foods and reclining seats.
It’s also been hugely successful, sometimes ranking nationally for ticket sales.
“Legends is very successful, so successful we really haven’t been able to do the programs and activities we want to do in communities, including education programs,” Rimkus said.
Galaxy Theatres in other communities open screens for school programs and business meetings, as well as tying in showings to local events.
For instance, one theater brought in middle school students for a simulcast with the International Space Station.
The new Galaxy could also tie in programs to local events such as showing movies like American Graffiti during Hot August Nights.
Such community connections are things the Galaxy at Legends has not been able to do because of the popularity of the theater, with weekend showings often selling out by Wednesday.
“We’re on board to do something special in Victorian Square,” Rimkus said, noting the mutual efforts of other companies like Silverwing Development, developer of Fountainhouse at Victorian Square apartments, and Marnell Gaming, owner of the Nugget Casino Resort.
“We are just super excited to provide a higher quality of service,” he said.
J Carter Witt, president of Silverwing also attended the commission meeting to show his support for the theater project.
The first phase of the Fountainhouse apartments is nearing completion next to the theater and the second phase will begin soon. Work has also begun on The Bridges apartments, just south of the theater parking garage.
The Silverwing projects also include retail and dining components.
“We’re creating a lifestyle,” Witt said in a phone interview.
An upgraded theater is part of that, along with what Marnell is doing to renovate the Nugget’s showroom and the caliber of shows, Witt said.
“We’ll have a really cool theater and really cool live shows” in Victorian Square in addition to retail, dining and ease of freeway access for the growing urban residential component, he said.
Silverwing is working hard to complete major work on Fountainhouse Phase 2 before the theater opens.
“We’re doing our projects so, when it opens, it will have a clean entrance,” Witt said.
City Councilman Donald Abbott, who reprents Ward 1 which includes Victorian Square, spent many hours in the theater while growing up in the city.
“It’s exciting for the residents who have been there for years, and the new ones too,” Abbott said.
“Ward 1 is not always looked at for the newest things. It’s exciting to have the newest and best theater in town.
“It’s really good for redevelopment going on down there. The theater is crucial to tie it together.”
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