Augmenting the ‘Heart of St. George,’ Children’s Museum, purchase of Electric Theater

ST. GEORGE – New draws to downtown St. George are on the horizon with the announcement from the mayor that the Community Arts Center is being converted into the new home of the St. George Children’s Museum. It was also announced yesterday that the City of St. George purchased the Electric Theater and its two neighboring buildings.

The future St. George Children’s Museum

St. George Mayor Daniel McArthur addresses the crows gathered in front of the Community Arts Center, St. George, Utah, Feb. 28, 2013 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News
St. George Mayor Daniel McArthur addresses the crowd gathered in front of the Community Arts Center, St. George, Utah, Feb. 28, 2013 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

St. George Mayor Daniel McArthur and the City Council gathered with members of the community outside of the Community Arts Center Thursday afternoon. Standing at a pulpit before the crowd, the mayor gave a short history of the downtown area and how important it is to the community.

“If we don’t have a vibrant downtown … we have a decaying downtown – a dead city,” McArthur said.

The mayor said a lot of emphasis has been placed on developing and renovating downtown St. George and attracting people to it. He also praised the time and effort City Manager Gary Eslpin has put toward the city’s vision for downtown area.

“It’s the heart of the city,” McArthur said.

He added that throughout the years the city has traded property with other entities to secure property in the downtown area, and also spent a great deal of time and effort renovating older buildings like the Community Arts Center. He said he is also convinced that downtown St. George, with all of the attractions it holds – especially during the summer – is the most popular area of town.

McArthur said the Children’s Museum will make a great addition and attraction to the area.

City Councilwoman Gail Bunker, who also serves as chair of the museum’s board of directors, said surveys previously taken concerning what people felt was missing in the city indicated a desire for a children’s museum.

“That’s come up several times,” she said, “now it’s come to fruition.”

Betty Owen, the museum’s exhibit director, said that new exhibits coming to the museum’s new location are coming from the Lied Discovery Children’s Museum in Las Vegas.  She said that children’s museum is also moving to a new location which enabled the St. George museum to acquire a number of  exhibits at roughly a third of their original cost, which original cost is estimated to have been around $1 million.

“This is Christmas for us,” Owen said.

Exhibits coming to the new location of the St. George Children’s Museum include exhibits focused on: planes, an airport terminal, a bank, city government, a grocery store, plumbing, firefighters, an electric company, and much more. There will also be various science exhibits and lounges for playing, reading and parties, a toddler area, and a performing arts stage.

Bunker said she anticipates the Children’s Museum will open in its new location by early summer.

The Children’s Museum was originally housed in the old Washington County Courthouse off 200 North in St. George.

Fate of the old building?

City Councilman Gil Almquist said there were a few ideas being considered for the old county courthouse.

He said one idea being tossed around is turning it into a community center, while another would turn the old courthouse into a “one-stop-shop” for city services.  It would be a place where anything a person needed when dealing with the city – be it permits, licenses, or anything of that nature – could be dealth with, applied for and/or acquired all under one roof.

However, no one idea for how the building could be used once the Children’s Museum is moved has taken a solid hold among the City Council, Almquist said.

“It’s all up in the air right now,” he said.

Mayor McArthur and others share memories with others at the Electric Theater,  St. George, Utah, Feb. 28, 2013 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News
Mayor McArthur and others share memories of the Electric Theater’s past and discuss possibilities for its future, St. George, Utah, Feb. 28, 2013 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

The Electric Theater

The new site of the St. George Children’s Museum isn’t the only announcement McArthur made. He also said the city has purchased the Electric Theater and two buildings next to it.

Councilman Jon Pike said possible new uses for the Electric Theater and the neighboring buildings are to provide a place that could continue to foster the art community in downtown St. George.

The Electric Theater could not only provide a place where various organizations could perform, he said, but it is a place where particular groups could come together in “co-op space” and share display space, offices and storage.

Pike said that the buildings could be used by all kinds of groups devoted to the arts, be they performance or art-based.

“It helps in the continued formation of what we like to call our ‘art district,’” he said.

The downtown art district, as Pike described it, consists of the various galleries on Main Street, the St. George Art Museum and Opera House, and the recently dedicated Roene DiFiore Center for Arts and Education.

Pike also said the City’s purchase of the three buildings served as a far easier and less expensive solution to building a brand new arts-centric facility.

McArthur said another reason the city bought the buildings was to protect them for history.

While showing members of the community the Electric Theater, the mayor and members of the council shared memories they had of attending movies and dances at that location in the past.

The Electric Theater and its neighboring properties, now owned by the City of St. George, St. George, Utah, Feb. 28, 2013 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News
The Electric Theater and neighboring properties, now owned by the City of St. George, St. George, Utah, Feb. 28, 2013 | Photo by Mori Kessler, St. George News

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Twitter: @MoriKessler

Copyright St. George News, LLC, 2013, all rights reserved.

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  • Responsible Adult March 1, 2013 at 9:16 am

    A micro brew sports/dance pub, like the one in Breckenridge, CO might’ve been the ideal for the Electric Theater for attracting adults and tourists with dollars to spend to the depressed downtown area. I can’t see a children’s museum attracting shoppers downtown, just as the splashpad and carousel do not attract many shoppers downtown. Has anyone notice that two more businesses on Main Street have closed their doors? The mayor & city council’s vision for the downtown seems to be an obscured vision, more like a fantasy.

  • Glad I'm Outta There March 1, 2013 at 6:16 pm

    IF we don’t have a vibrant downtown? IF? This convinces me that the only reason the mayor and his cronies are still in office is because they have the magic (R) after their name on the ballot. It certainly isn’t because they they and manager-for-life Esplin have a pinch of sense when it comes to running a city. Mr. Mayor, your downtown has been dead for 30 years. Downtown’s retail presence hasn’t been viable since you and your developers allowed the uncontrolled urban sprawl that killed downtown in the area.

    Keep electing them folks. You’ll get what you voted in. Airports sold as bringing in Southwest, Jet Blue and major airlines but once you signed the check the powers that be decide to lay asphalt that will allow only SkyWest to service it. If you want a commentary on the competence of Mayor McArthur and Manager Esplin one needs only look west to the D. Sacrifice in the name of false progress.

  • JedC April 16, 2013 at 5:02 pm

    We were driving down there and my wife’s friend looked up and said, “I can’t believe they’re tearing the mountain down right next to the D.” I couldn’t believe it either.

    • Zeke April 16, 2013 at 8:38 pm

      So was this back in 1989 when you saw this? That’s when it happened.

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