River Center Theater rebid coming soon

    City officials are finalizing scaled down plans for a renovated Raising Cane’s River Center Theater and plan to rebid the construction contract sometime this month.

    Since early this year, they’ve been trying to figure out how to shave some $2.5 million off the estimated construction cost of the $18 million project, which came in over budget in the initial round of bidding.

    Assistant Chief Administrative Officer Kelvin Hill says most of the reductions will come from enhancements that were intended to make the 40-year-old theater more attractive and marketable as a performing arts venue. But some will come from structural upgrades and improvements to things like lighting and seating.

    Initial plans called for the addition of new concession stands, cross aisles, private and corporate boxes, a VIP/subscribers’ lounge, expanded lobby and elevators that go from the garages to the top of the balcony level.

    The overhaul will also slightly reduce the capacity of the theater, which currently seats just under 2,000 visitors and hosts about 175 events each year.

    Those plans haven’t been scrapped but are being modified, according to Hill, who says city officials have been doing a cost-benefit analysis to determine what should stay in the plans and what should go. Plans, for instance, call for upgraded food service at the concession stands, which may sound like a luxury but is actually key to helping the theater make more money, he says.

    “To upgrade our food service you need different food prep equipment, which is more expensive,” he says. “But you don’t want to give that up just to get the price down if that’s critical to revenue generation.”

    Architect Skipper Post, whose firm, Post Architects, was awarded the design contract, says another challenge has come from the fact that so much of the building has to be brought into compliance with current building codes.

    “Part of the reason it is so expensive is that there so many code requirements and upgrades that need to be done,” he says. “That building hasn’t been renovated in 40 years.”  

    Post says his office is completing a revised set of plans to deliver to the city today and that the final bid specs should be reissued this month. Renovations were originally scheduled to be completed by August 2020. Now, Hill says, it will be sometime in early 2021. 

    Editor’s note: This story has been updated to show that the project was originally scheduled to be completed in August 2020, and has now been delayed until early 2021. Daily Report regrets the error. 


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