Manny Crisostomo / Bee file, 2010

The opening of the Crocker Art Museum in 2010 featured the Core Dance Collective and other performers. The museum still faces a funding gap to pay for the museum's expansion.

Editorial: In drive for new arena, city can’t ignore projects to bolster the arts

Published: Sunday, Apr. 21, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 6E

Sacramento's future vitality isn't only about the Kings and a new downtown arena. It's also about a rich cultural scene and civic assets such as the Community Center Theater, the Crocker Art Museum and B Street Theatre.

Before City Council members sign off on investing at least $258 million into an arena deal, they should have a full understanding of what that would mean for those community facilities.

They don't have that now.

When council members endorsed the arena "term sheet" on March 26, they directed City Manager John Shirey to report back this Tuesday on how to address needs at the theaters and museum. City officials have put off that presentation for two weeks because NBA owners have delayed a decision on whether to allow the Kings to be sold and moved to Seattle.

If the Kings leave, some funds slated for the arena might be available. Officials need to get going and work with stakeholders on a realistic, affordable plan in case the arena does move forward.

Asked about the challenge these projects face, Shirey replied bluntly: "Money – the lack thereof."

• The city has a $48 million plan to upgrade the Community Center Theater, which has not had a major renovation since opening in 1974. But only about $3 million will be set aside by June 30; the only source of money now is a $3 per ticket surcharge at the theater that is expected to bring in $650,000 in 2012-13.

The most urgent item is improving access so the theater complies with the 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act. About $33 million of the proposed renovations are related in some way to ADA compliance. If the city doesn't move forward on the project, a judge could impose a 180-day deadline to make the fixes.

The expectation had been that a portion of the city tax on hotel rooms would help finance the project. The hotel tax, however, is being counted on as a backup in the arena deal if cash from the city's downtown parking is inadequate to repay bonds for $212.5 million of the city's contribution.

• The Crocker museum is facing a June 30, 2014, deadline to repay the city a $10 million line of credit it took out to finish its $122 million expansion that opened in October 2010. The museum, which has been paying only about $300,000 a year in interest, wants to refinance at least part of the debt.

The fundraising drive for the expansion was the region's largest cultural capital campaign ever. The city absolutely must safeguard that community investment.

In addition, the arena agreement calls for city-owned land to be given to the new Kings ownership group, including two lots used as parking by museum staff and patrons. The nearly 200 spaces generate about $200,000 a year toward the museum's $8.2 million operating budget. Crocker CEO Lial Jones says the museum can't afford to lose the parking or the revenue. "No one wants to see one project pitted against others," she told The Bee's editorial board.

• B Street is trying to raise the last $11.5 million for its planned $24 million complex in midtown that would include a bigger children's theater and a new mainstage theater.

The city has already pitched in $1 million, but B Street is hoping for more help. It wants the city to issue about $5 million in bonds that would be repaid from a $5 per ticket fee. The other $6.5 million would come from tax credits, private gifts and naming rights, but perhaps also a city contribution. If the financing can be resolved, construction would start in June 2014, with completion in October 2015.

While a new arena would be a massive boost for the central city, so would cultural projects like B Street, says Executive Director Bill Blake. The public would get a return on its investment, just as on an arena.

"We can do more than one thing," Blake says.

On that, he's exactly right.


$48 million

Community Center Theater:

Renovation and disability access

$11.5 million

B Street Theatre:

New complex with possible city-backed bonds, contribution

$10 million

Crocker Art Museum:

Line of credit from city

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