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The Phoenix Theatre Company sets date for state-of-the-art campus expansion

Graphic if The Phoenix Theatre Company improvements
The Phoenix Theatre Company plans to raise $45 million for this second phase of its campus development plan. (Submitted Graphic/
The Phoenix Theatre eyes summer 2023 as groundbreaking milestone
Staff Reports | Digital Free Press

With $28 million raised towards building a state-of-the-art, 500-seat venue, The Phoenix Theatre Company is announcing the groundbreaking milestone of its central Phoenix campus development plans.

The Phoenix Theatre Company expects to break ground summer 2023, officials there say.

Also, Phoenix City Council earlier this month voted to include nearly $6 million in long-needed funding that will support the building of ADA-compliant rehearsal spaces, offices and educational facilities as part of the general obligation bond going in front of voters in November 2023, according to a press release.

As the largest employer of artists in Arizona, The Phoenix Theatre Company offers some of the most inclusive community service programs in the country with their Partners That Heal Program and Adventure Stage for children with disabilities. While the public areas of the theatre have been upgraded for ADA accessibility, the backstage areas of this 1951 facility have largely remained untouched.

“If approved by the voters in the fall, this funding will be transformational to children, artists and staff like myself who have mobility issues” said Matt Schaefer, Phoenix Theatre’s managing director who is a T6 paraplegic. “For 16 years I have pulled myself up a steep non-compliant ramp to get to my office. This funding will remove barriers to my work as well as remove barriers to participation for so many others making our programs and services even more accessible.”

The Phoenix Theatre plans to raise $45 million for this second phase of its campus development plan, officials there say.

“Having just premiered “¡Americano! in New York,” we are excited to continue developing new musicals for the American musical theatre canon,” said Michael Barnard, producing artistic director at the Phoenix Theatre.

“Our plan creates an expanded facility that allows us to produce pre-Broadway work here in Arizona, offering hundreds of local jobs to artists, technicians and creatives while also capitalizing on substantial outside investment in our local economy,” he said.

“While “¡Americano!” was enormously successful, The Phoenix Theatre Company lacks the technical capabilities required to attract most pre-Broadway investment. The investment by the local philanthropic community and state and city support will solve that and put us on the map as a go-to destination for pre-Broadway productions.”

The Phoenix Theatre Company employs 130 full-time employees and, with a $12 million annual operating budget, is the largest regional theater in Arizona and one of the largest in the southwest.

“We’ve come a long way from our humble beginnings as the Phoenix Players more than 100 years ago, operating out of a horse barn in what is now our outdoor courtyard,” said Jim Manley, board president for the theatre. “Our vision for the last 20 years has been to grow The Phoenix Theatre Company into a regional powerhouse and elevate Arizona to national cultural prominence. I’m very proud of the legacy we’re building for the arts in this community.”

The Phoenix Theatre eyes summer 2023 as groundbreaking milestone

Contributors to the theatre include well-known names, locally and nationally, such as:

  • Steven Spielberg,
  • Billie Jo and Judd Herberger,
  • Mr. Richard J Stephenson and Dr. Stacie J. Stephenson,
  • Bill Pope, Carole and Arte Moreno,
  • Rob and Melani Walton Foundation,
  • Virginia G. Piper Charitable Trust,
  • The David E Reese Family Foundation,
  • Linda Herman, Jeff and Nancy Werner, and
  • Judith Hardes, as well as support from municipal, state and federal sources.

Chanen Construction will be the contractor building the new facilities.

“This was the late Herman Chanen’s final construction project — one that he felt was so important to the future of Phoenix arts that he personally helped to fundraise to support it,” said Bill Pope, co-chair of the capital fundraising efforts.

“Over two decades in the making, this endeavor elevates the status of Arizona within the region as well as the nation as a destination for performing arts in the western part of the country and will serve to provide additional economic impact to both the artistic and the broader Phoenix community,” said Vincent VanVleet, executive director for the theatre.

“With previous investments in phase one, the $45 million additional funding will constitute a total $70 million investment by donors to The Phoenix Theatre Company since 2003, making it one of the largest investments in a regional theatre in the country.”

The Phoenix Theatre Company has engaged Dallas-based Connect Partnership Group to provide strategic consultation regarding the development of a facility naming rights opportunity and other sponsorship opportunities for the expanded facility that will further propel this phase of The Phoenix Theatre’s development across the finish line, according to the release.

The Phoenix Theatre Company is one of the most innovative arts organizations in the country. During the pandemic, while other arts organizations were forced to close for nearly 18 months, Theatre leadership pivoted quickly to an outdoor stage, setting it up in a matter of weeks and keeping 100% of staff in addition to artists employed throughout the entirety of the Covid-19 crisis.

While total fundraising is almost 75% complete, the theatre looks to the multitudes of arts supporters and corporate sponsors, including a prospective naming rights sponsor, in the Valley to help complete the capital campaign goal.

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