Triumvirate Theatre is seen on Monday, Feb. 22, 2021 in Nikiski, Alaska. The building burned in a fire on Feb. 20. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Triumvirate Theatre is seen on Monday, Feb. 22, 2021 in Nikiski, Alaska. The building burned in a fire on Feb. 20. (Ashlyn O’Hara/Peninsula Clarion)

Kenai to consider donating land for new Triumvirate playhouse

The theater’s building burned down in February.

The Kenai City Council will consider legislation during their June 16 meeting that would donate a piece of city land to Triumvirate Theatre for a new playhouse. The land is located near Daubenspeck Park, near the Kenai Walmart.

The group has been displaced since a fire burned their theater down on Feb. 20.

Joe Rizzo, the theater’s director, wrote in a May 20 letter to Kenai City Manager Paul Ostrander that the cause of the fire could not be determined by their insurance forensic expert or by the state fire marshal’s office. In the interim, Triumvirate has been allowed to use Kenai Central High School’s “Little Theatre,” courtesy of the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District.

Rizzo estimates that Triumvirate will need about 2 acres for the new facility, which would include room for the building footprint and a parking lot. According to Kenai Planning Director Ryan Foster, water and sewer is adjacent to the property. Theaters are allowed in the Light Industrial zoning districts with a conditional use permit.

Community support for the theater’s rebuilding effort was swift. With assistance from the Rasmuson Foundation, the theater set up a disaster relief fund through the Alaska Community Foundation to which financial contributions could be made. Rizzo said that in the last 10 weeks, more than 500 individual donors made over $100,000 in cash donations to the theater. Rizzo said Triumvirate has also received in-kind donations, including excavating services for cleanup and a grand piano from Kenai Peninsula College.

In all, Rizzo estimates that more than $1 million will be needed to rebuild the theater due to the rise in cost of building materials. He hopes to raise another $100,000 in cash donations over the summer. That would be in addition to at least $200,000 the theater expects to receive from its former landlord as part of the insurance settlement.

Triumvirate also plans to submit a letter of inquiry to the Rasmuson Foundation for a Tier 2 grant before the end of July. A land donation from the city, which the foundation would consider matching funds, will be “critical” to receiving the grant, Rizzo said. Triumvirate is already using a Tier 1 grant from the Rasmuson Foundation in the amount of $25,000 for architectural and design efforts.

In describing the benefits the City of Kenai stands to see from the relocation of the theater, Rizzo cited the economic activity theater patrons would generate. For example, Rizzo said, Kenai’s hardware and grocery stores would benefit from the theater’s daily operations and patrons may visit Kenai restaurants before or after shows. That, Rizzo wrote, would be in addition to the property tax the theater would pay to the city, the local employees Triumvirate would hire to help teach drama camps and conduct building maintenance.

“Theaters are economic engines for communities,” Rizzo wrote.

The Kenai City Council approved the introduction of the ordinance that would donate the land to Triumvirate during their June 2 meeting. A public hearing on the legislation will be held during the council’s June 16 meeting.

More information about Triumvirate and the theater’s relief fund can be found on their website at triumviratetheatre.org.

Reach reporter at Ashlyn O’Hara at ashlyn.ohara@peninsulaclarion.com.

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