By Kevin Reagan | July 28, 2021
ImprovMania, Chandler’s long-running comedy theater, has found a new home after buying a building from the city.
The 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.
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 say 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,” says Dave Specht. “We just didn’t think it’d ever be possible to actually own anything down there.”
The property was 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.
ImprovMania’s relocation to a building within walking distance of restaurants could help the city fulfill its goal in turning Downtown into a regional entertainment destination.
“One of the things Chandler wanted to do was get the public across the street,” Specht says about Arizona Avenue. “We’re basically expanding the footprint that visitors to Downtown Chandler walk.”
ImprovMania 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 encourages laughing to unscripted vignettes.
But the pandemic forced a slew of challenges. Once their theater was closed by a statewide shutdown order, the Spechts transitioned to comedy shows online and asked their local fanbase for donations.
Money generated by those fundraisers helped ImprovMania make its lease payments on its current space throughout the pandemic.
The theater’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 says the Boston Street location could offer new opportunities by providing a space with a different layout and open floor plan. Specht says the new venue has a more inviting atmosphere that has space for serving drinks and food from 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 adds.
“We’re going to have it a little more open during the evening and maybe the afternoon,” Specht says.
The Spechts will spend 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 use their current space as a rehearsal space for their youth theater or to host improvisational classes.
“We have plenty to keep both spaces busy and occupied,” Specht says.