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Durham Leaders Want To Spend Money For New Arts Theater

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DURHAM — Bull City leaders may spend big bucks to give performers a downtown home. They are thinking about building a theater in Durham so the arts can flourish there.

A 5,000-seat theater could be the next main attraction in downtown Durham.SFX Entertainmentis in talks with the city about building a $34 million theater just north of the Durham Bulls Athletic Park.

Howard Clement is one of 10 city leaders who will visit an SFX theater in Connecticut over the weekend. The city would pick up most of the tab for building the theater. It is not a done deal, but many city leaders believe it would be a good investment.

"We haven't quite agreed that we're going to come to an understanding with SFX. That's why we're doing this exploratory trip," Clement says. "It would certainly be in line with the current aim of downtown, to be an entertainment and arts mecca."

Steve Martin says the SFX project could hurt attendance at the 1,000-seatCarolina Theatre. The new theater would compete with his, but it could also provide opportunities for cross-promotion and bring bigger shows to Durham.

"There's a finite amount of money in everybody's pocket," he says. "A Broadway star like Sarah Brightman might come in there and we might be able to offer a discount to the folks who are our patrons, or use it as an incentive to get them to sign up for our series."

Supporters of the theater project plan to present a proposal to the city council in about a month. Council members say they would consider a tax on prepared meals to pay for it.

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Stephanie Hawco, Reporter
Terry Cantrell, Photographer
Kamal Wallace, Web Editor

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