ImprovMania, Chandler’s long-running comedy theater, has found a new home that is more centrally located to downtown after buying a building from the city.
A city-owned building on the east side of Boston Street will soon be occupied by ImprovMania’s team of comedians as the space is transformed into a new entertainment venue between SoHo63 and Inchin’s Bamboo Garden.
Last month, City Council authorized a purchase agreement, selling the empty building to ImprovMania for an appraised value of $460,000.
The city put out a request for interested parties in 2020 and received five proposals from various organizations. An evaluation committee vetted the applicants and made ImprovMania an offer to move into the space by the end of 2021.
ImprovMania owners Dave and Colleen Specht said they have long wanted to find a permanent home for their theater and the city’s proposal seemed like the perfect match for that goal.
“We’ve always liked downtown Chandler,” said Dave Specht. “We just didn’t think it’d ever be possible to actually own anything down there.”
The property was originally acquired by the city years ago as part of its plan to redevelop and revitalize downtown.
Starting in the early 2010s, the opening of a new City Hall attracted new development and the city saw vacancy rates starting to decline.
The relocation of ImprovMania to a position situated within walking distance of restaurants could help the city fulfill its goal in turning the entire downtown area into a regional entertainment destination.
The city wanted to give pedestrians more incentives to cross Arizona Avenue, Specht said, so ImprovMania could potentially become the impetus to get downtown’s patrons to explore more of the area.
“One of the things Chandler wanted to do was get the public across the street,” he said. “We’re basically expanding the footprint that visitors to downtown Chandler walk.”
ImprovMania first opened at its present location near Arizona Avenue and Frye Road in 2014 and gradually built up a loyal following of patrons.
Every Friday and Saturday night, the Spechts and their squad of improvisers could be seen making up characters on the spot, encouraging audiences to laugh with unscripted vignettes.
ImprovMania slowly built up a brand in Chandler, Specht said, as a go-to spot for all types of comedy and performing arts. As their brand became more prominent around the Valley, the Specht’s theater started branching out to new projects and opportunities.
But the pandemic forced a slew of challenges the Spechts had never encountered.
Once their theatre was closed by a statewide shutdown order, the Spechts transitioned to comedy shows online and asking their local fanbase for donations.
Money generated by those fundraisers helped ImprovMania make its lease payments on its current space throughout the pandemic.
The theatre’s youth program also transitioned to a digital format and continued producing online shows for its dozens of young acting students.
After seven months of closure, ImprovMania reopened last October for small-scale, in-person shows and cautiously began to return to normal operations.
Specht said the Boston Street location could offer some new opportunities by providing a space with a different layout and open floor plan.
The theater’s current space has a small lobby that doesn’t allow for much mingling between performers and patrons. Specht said the new venue has a more inviting atmosphere that has space for serving drinks and a small menu.
The new location also allows for spectators to wander in off the street and get a taste of what ImprovMania has to offer, he said.
“We’re going to have it a little more open during the evening and maybe the afternoon,” Specht added.
The Spechts will be spending the next few weeks planning a robust performance schedule that will make room for visiting acts to utilize ImprovMania’s new stage.
The couple still intends to continue using their current space as a rehearsal space for their youth theatre or hosting its many improvisational classes.
“We have plenty to keep both spaces busy and occupied,” Specht said.