Chris Ainsworth: Crowd-sourcing a resurrection

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<p>MARTIN S. FUENTES/LAS VEGAS REVIEW JOURNAL</p>

Joey Vanas (of First Friday), Michael Corthwaite (Downtown Cocktail Room), Rehan Coudhry (Life is Beautiful festival) and a team of dedicated volunteers want to save the old Huntridge Theatre.

If you’ve spent more than a handful of years living in Vegas, you’ve heard this story before and can skip straight to the interview bits below. If you’re new in town, let me toss out some Google searches to get you caught up on the last couple of decades: “Friends of the Huntridge,” “Save the Huntridge” and “Mizrachi Huntridge.” I’ll wait while you look things up.

There, now you should be up to speed.

This week: the crowd-funding column!

I spoke with David Anderson, coordinator for the newly launched Save The Historic Huntridge Theater Indiegogo campaign, about the project’s methods, goals, and how the team is taking to crowd-funding and the Internet to get the Huntridge revival off the ground.

Funding the first stage of a historic building restoration is a novel use of crowd-sourcing. What led the team to go down this route versus more traditional funding methods?

A few reasons. Covenants restricting the Huntridge from being torn down are set to expire soon, and it’s very important to get this off the ground before that happens. Joey, Michael and Rehan are not rich people, and they exhausted their own financial resources putting down the first deposit on the property. Crowd-funding the second deposit both enables the project to move forward while showing potential investors (who would be required to foot the remainder of the restoration costs) that there is in fact massive community support to see the Huntridge revived and back in operation.

Why Indiegogo over Kickstarter, local startup openfi.re, or other crowdsourcing options?

Kickstarter was a no-go because it expressly forbids raising money to buy real estate, given its “short-term artistic project” focus. That restriction wasn’t the only one in their guidelines that disallowed us, but it was the obvious one.

Openfire, a site I founded, is unfortunately too early in its development to support a project of this size. Otherwise, the model we’d developed for Openfire would have been perfect for this kind of multistage, long-term, socially valuable project.

Indiegogo, with its solid history and less restrictive terms, ended up being a solid fit for the Huntridge campaign.

How were the pledge levels determined? What percentage of the final Indiegogo tally will go towards fulfilling pledge rewards?

They were determined by the team’s estimates as to what would entice the widest possible cross-section of people to happily contribute to the campaign. Note that contributions are not donations, as they are not tax-deductible, and we want our contributors to feel that they are receiving direct value from the money they’ve granted the campaign.

Most of the rewards have lower hard, immediate costs, since many of the big ones are dependent on a successful reopening, and many of the smaller ones are being donated by local artists or businesses. It’s impossible to say for sure without knowing which perks will end up being the most popular, but I’d guess that our fulfillment costs for this campaign in particular will run an exceptionally low percentage, probably [less than] 5 percent, preserving a great majority of the funding for the project itself.

The outpouring of offers for in-kind contributions of time and services as we’ve spun this thing up has been incredible.

One of the perks offered is what the campaign is calling a Speak Up! vote. How will Speak Up work, and what do the votes mean?

Our goal is to allow for the maximum possible level of local input on shows and programming once the Huntridge reopens. We want the community funders to have a voice in its direction, and to feel invested and excited to continue to support the Huntridge once it’s up and running.

We’re working with local development studios who’ve offered to help us design a platform to facilitate Speak Up and community input, and will reveal more about the system as it progresses and goes online.

The Huntridge was a fixture in Las Vegas for many decades before it fell into disrepair. Right now, we’re focusing primarily on securing the Huntridge to ensure that it will remain standing to serve the community in the decades ahead.

Interested in supporting the Huntridge Theater revival? Visit thehuntridge.com, pick your favorite perks, and throw ’em a few bucks. I’ll buy you a drink on opening night.

CHRIS AINSWORTH is a native Las Vegan and a tech dilettante. Find him on Twitter (@driph) and online at driph.com.