Observations all along the line - Kimball & the Southern Panhandle First

Goodhand Theater transferred over to Forward Kimball Industries

The City Council voted to transfer the Goodhand Theater over to the possession of Forward Kimball Industries at their meeting the night of November 5 in the City Council chambers.

According to Kimball City Administrator Daniel Ortiz, the reasoning behind the transfer stems from FKI being better suited to find a buyer for the old theater.

"Because of just the way and nature of how city government operates, it makes it a lot more difficult for us to try to market and sell a property and have to go through all the legal hurdles we have to go through when trying to sell a property," Ortiz said.

Ortiz also presented multiple options to the board concerning what the city could do with the building as far as bringing in a new owner.

"There are some that would prefer to just sell the property as quickly as possible to avoid any long term property taxes or cost of maintaining the building. But there is also the possibility in terms of what we as the city would want to see happen with that building. Whether we want to try and market and see if there's a nonprofit group out there that will try to come in and try to maintain it and renovate it," Ortiz said.

Another option for the city would be to market the theater at an extremely low cost to attract a buyer that may have a business plan and the means to update the theater with the city setting a specific amount of time in which the project is to be completed.

"One of the things that some communities have done is that they take the ownership of a building that still has some valuable use for it. Some communities have just decided to eat the cost they invested into it and market it out there for a dollar just to see whoever has the best idea and the financial support to follow through with that idea," Ortiz said.

However, even using this strategy, the project could potentially still be cost prohibitive with not only acquiring the new digital projection system, which has an estimated cost of $75,000 to $100,000, in order to play newer films but also repairs and maintenance to the building itself.

"The awning is in very bad shape. Our concern right now is that with a good snow storm and added weight onto it, the awning will come down. Part of the wood and the support structure is eroded away. The wood is all rotted. One initial estimate of what it would cost to repair the Goodhand signand the marquee leave it at running between $15,000 to $20,000," Ortiz said.

When discussion turned to possibly removing the Goodhand sign and the marquee and replacing it, council members such as Kim Christensen were hesitant to consider the option due to the long history of the Goodhand theater and its signage.

"I have memories that go back to when I was a little bitty girl, and if we can in any way at least preserve a proportion of the Goodhand...I think in the community that's an issue, that's something. Maybe we don't want to spend our whole future on it, but at the same time, it's important," Christensen said.

Council member John Morrison also showed resistance to the idea of taking the sign down, fearing that it would simply fall by the wayside in the future.

"I think it needs to be repaired, but I don't think we need to tear it apart to repair it initially. I'm afraid if we just tear it off it may never get put back up if we don't use a little forethought," Morrison said.

The idea of selling the theater to a private owner was also proposed by Christensen, believing that it would be more advantageous in getting the project going.

"I think private industry tends to make wills flow better than the city does. If you make your own investment and put your own money into it, you usually work harder at it. That's not to say you always succeed. I think that the better option is to get it sold to somebody in the private sector and then do what we can to support them," Christensen said.

However, Kimball Economic Development Director Wilson Bowling believes that handing over the theater to a private owner might leave the theater in a worse place than it's in now, fearing that if it were to reopen it may not be necessarily as a theater.

"I have two major fears about just putting it up for the market to buy it. Number one being someone buying the building and not using it as a theater. They might use it as storage which is the very last thing we need downtown, another building sitting full of people's stuff," Bowling said.

Bowling's other fear of handing the building over into private ownership rests in the idea that the theater will not turn out much of a profit for anyone who purchases it, making it difficult to even find a potential buyer for the business.

"I'm afraid the building is just going to sit empty for years if it ever reopens. There's a possibility but it's a very slim one, because it's not going to be a money maker, not with all the updates and upgrades the theater is going to need," Bowling said.

Mayor James Schnell echoed Bowling's sentiment, pointing out the plight of the previous owners Terry and Amy Sorenson.

"I would say that when Sorensons first ran it and then they closed for roughly a year and reopened it, when they reopened it, they did it as a community service, because they knew they weren't going to make any money. They did us a community service keeping it open as long as they did," Schnell said.

The most appealing option to the council was to seek out examples from other smaller communities that have successfully gotten their movie theaters up and running so Kimball can use at least one of those strategies moving forward.

"We don't have to reinvent the wheel. There are numerous examples of communities that have reopened their theaters and they're successful. There are numerous ways of doing it. We have all kinds of opportunities to go out and study each one of those ways and adopting one of them," Morrison said.

Schnell backed Morrison's idea and also proposed the idea of the city leasing the property to a new owner instead of forcing them to buy the building outright.

"I think, if we go and find the examples and get a history of them, we can decide there if that is a route that Kimball can afford to go through and do like John's saying. Maybe you lease it out after you put some money into it. That makes it feasible for someone who wants to do the lease system. Or you do the other one where you help a community group run it," Schnell said.

Bowling also pointed out that the city of Kimball is not alone in the venture and has received signs of support from surrounding communities.

"I had a meeting with Billy Estes, who's the guy who runs the Midwest in Scottsbluff. He said that he wished his group could run this one, but they can't. But if we can actually get a group together, he said he would volunteer his time to help us get it started and talk to the right vendors and everyone we need to," Bowling said.

Though the council approved the motion to transfer the property to FKI, the city will still have a say in what happens with the business in the future through the city's lien which is still effective on the property, according to Kimball City Attorney Kent Hadenfeldt.

"When you do that, our Deed of Trust is still in effect so that doesn't merge with the title. That's where you get your say so when somebody comes in to sell that. Our lien still has to be removed to transfer the title to someone else if we ever do it," Hadenfeldt said.

Though it is unclear what will happen with the business in the future, council member Morrison has faith that it can be brought back to life.

"There are many communities out there, and I know three of them that are all smaller than Kimball, that have theaters with the new digital equipment that are open every weekend. If they can do it, we can do it," Morrison said.

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