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Construction on new Playmill Theatre getting underway in Island Park soon

Artistic rendering of the new Playmill Theatre | Courtesy Roger Merrill
IDAHO FALLS – After four years of delays, construction on a new Playmill Theatre is finally getting underway.
Owner Roger Merrill tells construction crews will break ground next week on a new 22,000-square-foot building at 4111 North Big Springs Loop in Island Park next to Springhill Suites by Marriott.
The building will be five times larger than its current location in West Yellowstone, Montana with a seating capacity in the theatre nearly doubling from 267 to 480.
It will also include a restaurant called The Play Grill, which will be open for breakfast, lunch and dinner with a menu that includes burgers and steaks. There will be a small stage in the restaurant where the servers will take turns singing at the mic while waiting tables.
Additionally, there will be a gift shop inside called Mill Creek Mercantile.
RELATED | Playmill Theatre opening new building in Island Park
The project was originally slated to get underway in 2020, but Merrill tells the COVID-19 pandemic significantly delayed it.
“We lost our financing … so we spent the next 18 months trying to find a bank that would talk to us,” Merrill explains. “We finally got that done … and then about a year ago construction costs went through the roof. We decided to wait a year for things to calm down and they did and now we’re finally ready.”
Though construction will begin as early as next week, there will be an official groundbreaking ceremony later this summer. The project is slated for completion in May 2025.
Merrill says there are multiple reasons for building a new theater. One of the main factors is the age of the current building. It was built in the late 1920s or early 30s and “was never suited to be a theater.”
“It was originally a drug store and post office and (served that function) until the 1959 Hebgen Lake earthquake. The owners just locked the doors and walked away,” Merrill says.
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Lynn Benson was the original owner of the Playmill, which opened in 1964. Merrill bought the business from John Bidwell in 2005, but he’s always leased the building. He’s looking forward to owning a space where audiences can enjoy dinner and a show.
“We’ve made the best of what we’ve had for 64 years now. We’ve just outgrown it and it’s gotten to the point where it’s not worth maintaining. That was probably our biggest motivator to get out,” he says. “We’re sold out everyday (and) we turn so many people away. If there’s any chance of increasing our business, the only way to do it is to move.”
But he promises all the things customers love about the current space will remain intact.
In 2020, Merrill told us most of Playmill’s customers come from Idaho, so being 20 minutes south of the current location will be more convenient for people.
He’s confident the theatre will be complete in time for the 2025 season. He’s excited for the community to see how it turns out.
Meanwhile, the 2024 season is underway in West Yellowstone. Shows this year include “Anastasia,” “Bye Bye Birdie” and “Oklahoma.” Since this is the last season in West Yellowstone, Merrill says tickets will be hard to come by. The best availability is between now and July 1.
To buy tickets or learn more, click here.
The post Construction on new Playmill Theatre getting underway in Island Park soon appeared first on East Idaho News.

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