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Rebuild Robinson Project Receives State Funding

Together, Colorado Mesa University and the State of Colorado invest in the future of performing arts

For more than 50 years, the Robinson Theatre has been home to students studying music, theatre and dance, and has been a guiding light for the local arts community. Throughout the decades, more than a thousand performances have brought joy, tears, laughter and a sense of belonging for western Colorado residents. While the theatre has served the institution well, campus and the Grand Valley have grown, as has the demand for a state-of-the-art regional performing arts facility.

The university alone couldn’t fund a new theatre, which is why this was Colorado Mesa University’s number one request to the state. At the start of the 2022 legislative session, the Legislature’s Capital Development Committee reviewed funding requests for capital projects and sent a recommended prioritization list to the Joint Budget Committee (JBC), which included the Robinson renovation.

On March 22, the JBC approved CMU’s ask of $39 million dollars to help aid in the rebuild of the Robinson Theatre. With approval from the General Assembly and Governor Jared Polis, CMU now has the state funding needed to start the project.

“We appreciate the Legislature, the Joint Budget Committee and Governor Polis for seeing the value in what we’re trying to do, and for the work our community and supporters did to help us get across the finish line,” said CMU President John Marshall. “This new theatre will become a critical economic and cultural engine for decades to come in western Colorado.”

The funding, which is the largest lump sum CMU has ever received from the state, will allow the university to continue to grow as a regional cultural destination as well as significantly improve the assets available to future performing arts students.

“Building a campus theatre is one thing,” said Marshall. “What we’re doing is building a regional gem that we hope will bridge some of the cultural divides we see in our region and across the country.”

The Robinson Theatre was originally built in 1968 as a 600-seat theatre. As CMU’s performing arts programs continue to grow, it is crucial that the facilities that support the programs reflect the professional arena that students will enter after they graduate.

"CMU students will soon be given the opportunity to work with state-of-the-art technology in a state-of-the-art building preparing them for professional advancement in a highly competitive and ever-innovative field,” said Theatre Arts Department Head Mo LaMée. 

In addition, a robust performing arts program and exceptional theatre will increase the cultural and financial well-being of the surrounding region. The new theatre will be the only one of its kind between the I-25 corridor on the Front Range and Salt Lake City allowing CMU to bring in touring companies and expand offerings for the region.

Plans for the new theatre are still in progress but the venue is likely to be designed as a lyric theatre with full theatrical lighting, technical support and the ability to be flexible in accommodating a wide range of performances. Capacity will also increase to around 800-900 seats. The audience experience will also be enhanced with seating that allows for better visibility and acoustics.

“The new theatre will provide an elevated performing arts experience for CMU student performers in the departments of music and theatre arts and for our patrons,” said Music Department Head Darin Kamstra, DMA. “This space will be acoustically designed to accommodate a wide range of performances from theatre to guest speakers and classical music to popular music.”

While the university requested and received $39 million in state funding, CMU will now need to raise the remaining amount through fundraising efforts.

“Thirty-nine million, along with CMU’s investment of an additional $5M will allow us to build a nice university theatre. However, we’re asking the community to help us take this project to the next level,” said CMU Foundation CEO Robin Brown. “By raising an additional $8M in private funding, we can build a truly transformative performing arts center on par with front range facilities that will establish CMU as a regional cultural destination.”

More information will follow regarding the project’s timeline and plans for CMU’s theatre and music seasons for 2022-23. To learn more about the project and to help Rebuild Robinson, visit the website.