Hiawatha residents prepare to vote on new city funded theater

Hiawatha is gearing up for a vote that would determine whether or not the city will have a movie theater anymore.

A vote on April 1st could mean that the city of Hiawatha will no longer have a movie theater, or that the sales tax will increase by a half cent, that’s about 10 cents on $100.

“I just can’t imagine a scenario where i could knock on my neighbors’ door and tell them that they owe me for my family’s entertainment,” said Ian Schuetz, a Hiawatha resident who opposes the new theater.

It would be funded through the city, which has sparked a passionate discussion.

“I’m not against a new theater per-se but I don’t think in this case the proposal, the ends justify the means essentially,” said Schuetz

“We’ve looked into all the numbers, you know Clint’s tried to sell the past 3 to 5 years. This was our only chance to keep it,” said Denise Bigham, a member of the Hiawatha Theater Committee.

The tax would not only raise money for a theater, the options would be endless.

“Economic development and recreational needs are on going. And that’s why there is no sunset. We’re proposing no sunset on the tax because there are needs that there are always going to be here in the community,” said Mike Nichols, City Administrator for Hiawatha.

There is currently a two screen theater in Hiawatha, but the current owner plans to close his doors soon anyways because the costs of operation and upgrades are just too high. The new plans would build a larger three screen theater, in a new location, east of town, near Highway 36, the exact location is yet to be determined.

“I have 4 children, I don’t want them driving to Saint Jo, I don’t want them driving to Topeka. On Christmas breaks in the winter when the roads are bad, I want them here in town,” said Bigham.

If the tax is passed, the city of Hiawatha wants the new Arrow Theatre to be ready for customers by Thanksgiving of this year. If Thanksgiving is too soon, their next opening date they want is in December, around Christmas.

A group of high school students want to do a color run to raise money for the theater if it is passed. If it does not pass, they will still put the money raised toward a community event.

The Arrow Theatre ticket prices would be $7 for an adult and $5 for a child.

The vote is April 1.


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