Could the Nevada Legislature save the Huntridge Theatre?

Illustration: Photograph by Steve Marcus

Over the years several potential operators have attempted to buy the historic Huntridge Theatre, only to fall short. But preservationist and State Assemblywoman Heidi Swank (District 16) doesn’t want to run the Huntridge. She wants to help clear the way for someone else to do it.

Originally, Swank’s bill, AB371, would have had the state purchase the Huntridge outright and lease the venue in a public/private partnership. But as it turns out, “There’s no structure in the state to do that kind of relationship,” Swank says. Instead, she’s proposing a Restoring Nevada’s Treasures loan, a new kind of revolving arrangement the Legislature is now considering.

Three state agencies—State Lands, State Public Works and the State Historic Preservation Office—will run the program, which doesn’t specifically name the Huntridge, but is intended for buildings that are “at least 50 years old, architecturally or culturally significant and in danger of soon becoming too deteriorated to save.” Whoever decides to purchase the 70-plus year-old Huntridge could apply for a loan of up to $3 million, repayable over 10 years. “It could really help at the beginning, when they have to make all those renovations,” she says.

And Restoring Nevada’s Treasures could save multiple venues. “Once [the $3 million] is paid back, they could identify another project and go from there,” Swank says.

It’s not a slam dunk. Swank has two other historic preservation bills she’s pushing this legislative session, and even if this one passes there’s no guarantee the Huntridge’s owners will sell. But Swank thinks the Huntridge is worth one more attempt, even if it’s something of a compromise.

“There’s a saying that goes around up here at this time in the session,” Swank says. “‘Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.’”

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