Ten Best Proposed Downtown Performing-Arts centers

by Brian Clarey

The Steven Tanger Center for Performing Arts; Greensboro

Greensboro mega-gajillionaire Steven Tanger ponied up $7.5 million to lead private funding for this apple of Mayor Robbie Perkins’ eye, with a strong group of supporters who believe a downtown performing-arts center would appeal to young professionals, increase tourism, create jobs and build prestige. The idea is nothing new — the boosters repeatedly cite the success of the Durham Performing Arts Center. And projects like this are being discussed all across the country, for all the same reasons.

Theatre District; Winston-Salem

Winston-Salem has a head start on its proposed $80 million theater district, as pitched two weeks by the Arts Council, with infrastructure and a designated geographical area. A refurbished Stevens Center, the National Black Theatre Hall of Fame and a new 6,000-seat venue are part of the deal, pitched as a quality-oflife and economic-development issue.

Golden State Theatre; Monterey, Calif.

Monterey City Council is looking into purchasing the old Golden State Theatre and operating it at a loss as a municipal project. A report floated a new sales tax to pay for it, according to the Monterey Herald, and that it would bring vibrancy and more foot traffic to the downtown district.

Performing Arts & Conference Center; Lancaster, Ohio

The Fairfield County Commission signed on to support a performing arts center last month, reported the Lancaster Eagle Gazette. Said Chairman Jim Huber, “We are in the stage right now of trying to get community organizations to sign a letter of support for the project. That’s what we can show potential investors about the level of community support we have.”

Ketchikan Performing Arts Center; Ketchika, Alaska

Ketchikan’s Lallette Kisstler penned a letter to the editor of SitNews expressing dismay that her nonprofit spearheading the proposed center would not get city funding, saying a lender is “waiting on the sidelines” for matching investment. The center, she wrote, would be the centerpiece of an existing arts district near a stop on a cruise line. She writes: “Can’t you see a part of downtown Ketchikan alive again, ALL YEAR LONG?”

The Utah Performing Arts Center; Salt Lake City, Utah

A booster-ish website says that Salt Lake City’s UPAC has been in the works since a 1962 Second Century Plan by the Chamber of Commerce. This one’s pricey: a $114 million, 2,500 seat masterpiece paid for by a municipal bond and, eventually, $27 million in private contributions that, when they’re collected, will be applied to the bond repayment.

The Performance Center; Asheville, NC

A little bit closer to home, some Ashevillians feel the need to replace the old Thomas Wolfe Auditorium with something more modern, part of a 2.4-acre mixed-use district with plenty of parking. The 1,200-seat venue was paid for in a public/private partnership, according to They’ve already got $5 million in private money, according to the site.

Muskogee Little Theatre; Muskogee, Okla.

Back in June, the City of Muskogee Foundation gave a grant to help fund the $6 million Muskogee Little Theatre project, a 250-seat black-box space in the downtown district. Ground should break in about a year, after the theater qualifies for the “challenge grant” by raising $1 million.

Dr. Philips Center for the Performing Arts; Orlando, Fla.

The ambitious 1,700-seat theater project with a $503 million price tag will enter Phase II of its construction in 2015, after securing $25 million in tourist development money from Orange County — the commission votes on the issue in October, according to the Orlando Business Journal. The idea for the name came from the Dr. Phillips Charities nonprofit, which donates $10 million in March.

Downtown performing arts center (Name TBD); Lubbock, TX

The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal reported in July that the city council had committed to donate a 5-acre parcel of land along Mac Davis Lane for the purpose of housing an $85 million performing arts center. To satisfy the deal, the Lubbock Entertainment and Performing Arts Association must raise $45 million by the end of 2017. The group, according to the Avalanche-Journal, claims it has already raised $20 million in pledges.