Deal will phase out city’s contribution over 10 years


NEW HAVEN — Ninety-nine years to the day after it first opened its doors to the public, the Shubert Theater was sold by the city to its private operator for $1.

On December 11, in the lobby of the “Birthplace of the Nation’s Greatest Hits,” outgoing New Haven Mayor John DeStefano Jr. officially signed ownership of the College Street theater over to the Connecticut Association for the Performing Arts (CAPA), the non-profit organization that has operated the Shubert since 2001.

Since then CAPA has operated the Shubert on a year-to-year lease, while the city of New Haven maintained financial responsibility for the building’s capital repairs and improvements. For managing and operating the theater the city paid CAPA a $250,000 annual management fee.

However, the last major renovation of the nearly-century-old Shubert took place in the early 1980s, and since then many of the building’s vital systems have become in need of repair, replacement and/or updating. This include the HVAC system, exterior masonry and the exterior fire escape.

The agreement relieves the city of financial responsibility to maintain the building — over time. Over ten the city’s annual contribution to the theater will decline until it terminates in 2024. This arrangement is expected to save the city approximately $5.5 million over this span.

To pick up the slack, the $11 million project is fueled by $4 million from the state, $2.5 million from city coffers and the launch of a $4 million Shubert Centennial Plan by establishing an endowment for continued financial sustainability of the theater.

The Centennial Plan envisions updates and renovations including backstage, back of house, orchestra shell and an additional performance space. City and CAPA officials such improvement could make possible an additional 95 to 180 event days, attracting 35,000 to 50,000 patrons downtown and generating en economic impact in excess of $6 million.

According to a study by Quinnipiac University, the Shubert presently generates close to $5 million in annual ticket revenues and is responsible for some $20 million in economic impact for the city.

“Places like [the Shubert] are important for maintaining a sense of who we are,” DeStefano said. “It’s so much better that this be owned by the community than by city government.”