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  • Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press file, 2012

    The Harris Center for the Arts honors Brice Harris, former chancellor of the Los Rios Community College District. He now heads the state community college system.

  • ANDY ALFARO / Bee file 2011

    The Three Stages at Folsom Lake College

Changing Three Stages' name a challenge for Folsom Lake College

Published: Sunday, Jun. 30, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 1B
Last Modified: Sunday, Jun. 30, 2013 - 8:56 am

The former Three Stages performing arts center in Folsom finds itself in the midst of a controversial rebranding as it seeks to sell its upcoming 2013-14 season.

The center, which enters its third full season presenting at Folsom Lake College, changed its name to the Harris Center for the Arts last August.

That name change was meant to honor the 2011 retirement of Los Rios Community College District Chancellor Brice Harris, who retired after 16 years in the post.

The name change was approved unanimously by the Los Rios board of trustees.

Harris returned to the workforce a month later when he accepted the post of chancellor of the state's community college system.

Under the new name this coming season – which begins in August – the center will see more dance, both traditional and contemporary, and more midsized Broadway touring shows appearing on its stages.

In 2013-14 the center will offer well-established acts such as Diavolo, Eddie Palmieri and Savion Glover.

Broadway traveling shows are well represented with "Bring It On – The Musical," "The Addams Family" and the Tony Award-winning show "Peter and the Starcatcher." Tickets go on sale July 8.

The Harris Center, which came with a price tag of $49.4 million, comprises three venues: the 850-seat Stage One theater (whose naming rights have yet to be purchased), the 200-seat City Studio Theater and the intimate 100-seat Scott-Skillman Recital Hall.

The center has completed its new signage and has revised its website.

The only holdovers are the old logo and a small sign that appears under the Harris name on the center's building.

David Pier, executive director of the Harris Center, said he did not know the total rebranding costs. But he said changing the signs alone cost about $69,000.

Many in the community still bristle at the idea of the name change and how it came about.

"They had a really sticky, memorable name in Three Stages, and it was a name that had been developed for two years," said Rick Wilson, CEO of El Dorado Musical Theatre. "That is a lot of time for something to take hold in people's minds.

"To then change that costs a lot of time and money. I guarantee you that, years from now, people will still be calling it Three Stages."

The center's name is no small matter to his organization, since it is the largest single user of the Harris Center.

The theater group is renting the hall 55 nights this season.

Some supporters of the center have complained that there was a lack of debate during the renaming process.

Also of concern is the loss of ability to sell the naming rights – which the college had hoped could bring in up to $3 million.

"I'm not taking away anything that Brice Harris did for the school district, but he's been compensated," said Katherine Anastasi, a Folsom Lake College Foundation board member.

Anastasi was referring to Harris earning $390,000 in total yearly compensation at the time of his retirement.

In a letter Anastasi sent to the board of trustees last September, she said passing up the opportunity to sell the naming rights was a "poor business decision."

"The board of trustees did not act in the best fiduciary responsibility," Anastasi said.

However, Los Rios board of trustees President Pam Haynes said there was no interest in purchasing the naming rights.

"We wanted to do due diligence, but at the end of the day no one came forward," said Haynes. "Plus, the Three Stages name was never meant to be a permanent name."

Haynes said the board felt it appropriate to name the center in honor of Harris, given his 16-year tenure at Los Rios and his role as originator of the idea for the arts complex.

It remains to be seen how the public will respond to the name change. But one thing is certain – since it opened in February 2011, the center has proved that an eager audience, hungry for arts performances, exists east of Sacramento.

The center drew roughly 110,000 attendees its first year and attendance is up by 10 percent this season, said Pier. "Our schedule is so busy now that it is hard to find room for the Broadway shows," he said.

Many shows have been sellouts and the number of presentations is growing.

In the 2011-12 season the center presented 301 events. In 2012-13 that number rose to 390 and next year will have at least that many, Pier said.

After two full seasons and one half-season, a more accurate picture of the typical patron is beginning to emerge.

Half of the audience at the center hails from El Dorado County, Pier said. "They're coming to us from the Highway 50 corridor going as far up as South Lake Tahoe," he said. "That amount was a surprise to me."

In comparison, only 12 percent of those who attended performances at the center reside in either Sacramento or West Sacramento.

HARRIS CENTER FOR THE ARTS

2013-14 season highlights:

• Arturo O'Farrill and the Afro Latin Jazz Orchestra Aug. 11

• Alonzo King LINES Ballet Sept. 27

• Complexion's Contemporary Ballet Oct. 24-25

• "The Addams Family" musical Nov. 26-27

• Eddie Palmieri Dec. 2

• Moscow Classical Ballet "The Nutcracker" Dec. 26-29

• Siro-A March 4-5

• Chamber Orchestra Kremlin March 10

• Savion Glover March 12-13

• Diavolo Dance Theater March 21-22

Subscription tickets on sale.

Single tickets go on sale July 8.

Information: (916) 608-6888; www.HarrisCenter.net

Call The Bee's Edward Ortiz, (916) 321-1071. Follow him on Twitter @edwardortiz.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Edward Ortiz



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