Sacramento is Overdue for New Performing Arts Center

The front page of the April 28 Sacramento Bee boldly headlined, “Sacramento performing arts center could be next big-ticket item for city.” The article, by Hudson Sangree and Edward Ortiz, describes the debate over renovating the Community Center Theater, a tremendous and ugly cement block of a building at 13th and L streets, or starting fresh and constructing a new, state-of-the-art performing arts center.

The existing theater needs about $11 million in renovations to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act. An accompanying facelift for the theater has been proposed for $52 million.

According to The Bee’s article, a new theater could cost “from $100 million to $300 million.”

Considering the estimated $63 million it would take to make the Community Center up-to-snuff between the ADA renovations and the “facelift,” adding another $37 million to reach the low-side benchmark for a new, modern theater seems a reasonable expense.

California Musical Theatre’s “Broadway Sacramento” series calls the Community Center home and brings touring companies of big-name musicals to Sacramento audiences. For years, this was the only place to catch touring productions unless you wanted to travel to San Francisco. CMT’s Executive Director Richard Lewis says that a theater with fewer than 2,200 seats would not serve the group’s needs, according to The Bee.

However, at Folsom Lake College, one of our very own Los Rios campuses, we have the Harris Center for the Arts. Its largest stage—it has three stages inside the beautifully designed complex—seats 850 and has booked shows as marquee as any at the Community Center. In fact, it’s becoming common to see shows appearing on both theaters’ season calendars—“Shrek the Musical,” “RAIN,” “Memphis” and “Rock of Ages,” to name a few.

Sacramento City Councilman Steve Hansen recently appeared on Capitol Public Radio’s “Insight” to discuss plans for the Community Center.

“People love to hate it,” said Hansen during his April 17 interview.

And hate it people do.

I detest the Community Center. The acoustics in the building are dreadful. Lyrics have been unintelligible for nearly every production I’ve seen there. The seats in the balcony feel so far away from the stage that you might as well be watching the production from Yolo County.

Seeing shows at the beautiful, new Harris Center—which only had a price tag of about $50 million, by the way—is an absolute treat and makes seeing productions at the Community Center pale in comparison.

With more attractive performance venues around Sacramento, the city needs to build a new theater to remain relevant in the region’s arts community.

Originally published in the Express – City College’s student-run newspaper on 5/6/2014. Read the Express article HERE.


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