The Harris Center for the Arts at Folsom Lake College has grown rapidly since its inception in 2011, and as it nears its eighth anniversary, the performing arts venue is closing in on a big milestone.
After hosting nearly 3,000 events since its grand opening, the Harris is on track to reach 1 million tickets sold by late November or early December, according to executive director Dave Pier.
The 80,000-square-foot performing arts facility first opened in February 2011 and by the end of its second season, the Harris had drawn more than 300,000 patrons.
Its initial success was due in part to good planning. Pier said the college conducted feasibility and marketing studies to determine the demand for a large performing arts facility in the area east of Sacramento.
The results, Pier said, were hugely influential on the center’s development. What began as plans for a smaller project bloomed into a sprawling multipurpose facility that seats over a thousand patrons between three performance halls — with an art gallery to boot — to meet the needs of a community bereft of large, high-quality venues.
“We were immediately selling out shows left and right, and from the very beginning it’s just been really busy,” Pier said. “If anything, we’re a little small for this community because they really come out for the arts.”
In addition to providing students opportunities to gain hands-on experience in acting, set and costume design, and music recording and production, the center hosts over 400 events and nets about 150,000 guests per year, adding up to about $5 million in annual sales — and it has been doing better every year, Pier said.
2017 was Harris’ most lucrative year at about $5.4 million in ticket sales, Pier said, and the center is on track to potentially break that record by the end of 2018.
One million tickets sold is equivalent to about $37 million all told, according to Pier, and it also represents much broader economic impacts in the region.
According to figures provided by Americans for the Arts — a nonprofit arts advocacy organization — the Harris Center accounts for about $10 million to the local economy each year and about $74 million total since opening.
This is due in part to travel expenses from visiting patrons, increased business at local restaurants, and incentives to rent or buy property in the surrounding area, Pier said.
These same factors contribute about $1 million to state and local taxes each year, totaling $7.5 million since 2011, according to Americans for the Arts.
The Harris Center, Pier said, has plans to continue growing by adding onto its full-time staff of 10, along with a series of renovations and technical improvements — which could also push its number of yearly performances past 400.
After installing a new theatrical lighting control system in January and upgrading its largest hall’s sound system in August, the center plans to unveil a new website and ticketing system in February and putting in brand new LED lights by spring.