With the clock officially ticking on Clear Space’s final year in Celebration Mall on Baltimore Avenue, it has been announced the theater company will be using the Rehoboth Beach Convention Center during the 2021 season.
Describing it as mutually beneficial, Rehoboth City Manager Sharon Lynn announced a leasing agreement between the city and Clear Space during a commissioner meeting Jan. 17. She said Clear Space would be using the convention center for 143 days in 2021, at a cost of $85,000. She said city staff and the theater company worked diligently to accommodate long-time annual users of the convention center.
The Cape Gazette first reported on the theater’s possible use of the convention center in October after a citizen’s Freedom of Information Act request revealed the city and Clear Space had been discussing the option privately since March 2019.
Founded in 2004, Clear Space moved into the old Epworth United Methodist Church property on Baltimore Avenue in 2010. In October 2018, theater officials announced a proposal for a new 25,600-square-foot home at 413, 415 and 417 Rehoboth Ave. Earlier this month, Clear Space announced it had purchased the properties.
A decision had to be made on the 2021 season because the theater company’s lease at 20 Baltimore Ave. ends at the end of 2020.
In an email Jan. 18, Clear Space Executive Director Wesley Paulson said the property owner did not want to extend the lease while the theater company builds a new home. He said the 2021 season will follow Clear Space’s current format and ticket prices.
“Clear Space started in the convention center in 2005,” he said. “We have a theme for 2021: Here we go again.”
Paulson thanked the city for making the 2021 arrangement work.
“Both parties, Clear Space and the city, had many moving parts to integrate into a final agreement that serves the needs of annual returning convention center events, while also allowing us to present a season of live theater at the beach in 2021,” said Paulson.
Officials said they have assured representatives of those long-running yearly events that their events won’t be bothered by Clear Space’s use.
CAMP Rehoboth founder Murray Archibald said Sundance is celebrating its 33rd anniversary this year. He said the event is a monster production and CAMP uses every space in the convention center for a full week – including the backstage area, which is packed with lighting and sound equipment and technicians.
Rehoboth Beach Jazz Festival President Dennis Santangini said it’s a great idea for Clear Space to use the convention center because it would help the city with revenue and will bring people to the city for the events they produce. He said the jazz festival has the convention center rented Oct. 12-17 in 2021.
“As long it does not interfere with our production for 2021 and future jazz festivals, we would not have a problem,” said Santangini.
Looking past the 2021 season, Paulson declined to say when the Rehoboth Avenue proposal would be back before the city. He said the theater company is still in the design development phase for the property and is working on a draft construction schedule to determine an opening date in 2022.