AZTEC — The iconic neon sign along N. Main Ave. will keep the letters A-Z-T-E-C burning brightly, but from George Rowe and Sue Rys' angle, it also spells C-R-A-S-H.

At City Hall tonight, commissioners will decide whether to approve a lease for Crash Music — the Chamber of Commerce's 2013 business of the year. The business, owned by Rowe and Rys is making a bid to expand into the Aztec theater from their current storefront location a few doors down.

The city commission will have to allow a special-use permit and a variance to noise regulations for the music school and arts venue to use the old theater.

A daycare facility, Methodist and Presbyterian churches and residences border the 8,000-square-foot theater.

"We always had it in mind," said Rys. "We started giving drum and guitar lessons in a tiny space with a pink door on Chaco, but we could barely fit all the drum students in."

Rowe and Rys moved last June to their present location at 108 S. Main Ave., holding regular music classes, art shows and concerts, and recently hosting Mayor Sally Burbridge for a community session meeting.

"Our mission is to combine community outreach, education and entertainment in one venue," Rowe said. "We are always eager to hear from people what they want to have here and we work hard to make things happen."

But making things happen at the venue, originally built in 1927 by J. Oscar Manning and called The Mayan Theater, has been a tough sell in recent years.


Idaho developer Buck Graybill is the current owner.

"It's kind of a weird story," Graybill said. "I gained ownership in a fluke trade for some commercial property in Moab and have mostly rented it for functions, and recently to an artist for use as her studio."

Graybill wants to see Crash Music become new tenants, and, if things go well, owners.

"I'm hoping the city will help them (Rowe and Rys) get something going so they can take over the space," he said.

"It would be nice to see the flagship theater brought up to code so Crash can revitalize the downtown area and bring people in for all sorts of events and activities."

If commissioners allow the couple to take over the theater, some of those plans include a grand opening concert in June with Navajo Nation blues trio The Plateros, from Tohajiilee.

The couple also hopes to transform part of the theater's generous space into a coffee shop with baked goods and a commercial kitchen for meals. Along with music and art shows, they plan on returning the theater back to its original design with movie screenings, too.

Rowe, previously an elementary music teacher at Naaba Ani School in Bloomfield, uses his experience in education and love of the arts to guide Crash Music's constant evolution and expansion.

In the year since they opened their doors on Main, Rowe and Rys have hosted more than a half-dozen art shows, including works by Rikk Morris and students from Mosaic Charter School and sold-out concerts featuring the blues music of Durango artist Kirk James and multi-instrumentalist Doug Goodhart.

A move up the street should guarantee more events and activity.

"The theater is such an exciting next step for us to see what we can do to bring first-class acts to Aztec and continue our working with the community," Rowe said. "We value the contributions of people who clearly see the need for an active center for art, music, lessons, gatherings and workshops."

The 300-seat theater will need some work, so Rowe and Rys are hoping, along with the city's endorsement, to have volunteer support. That help ranges from cleaning up the place to fundraising to replacing the gutted sound system and the $7,000 marquee that mysteriously disappeared years ago.

"You have got to throw the dice at a certain point, and we're going to throw em," Rowe said. "So far, this community has really showed us a lot of support and excitement and that makes everything we've done up to now worth it."

City Commission meets tonight at 6 p.m. at City Hall, 201 W. Chaco St.

James Fenton can be reached at; 505-564-4621. Follow him on Twitter