City Beat

Sacramento task force will plan new downtown performing arts center

As Sacramento struggles to find the money to finish long-awaited cultural facilities, Mayor Kevin Johnson made it clear Tuesday that the focus of the coming months will be creating a plan to build a new performing arts center downtown.

Speaking to a group of business and civic leaders at a Sacramento Metro Chamber of Commerce luncheon, the mayor said a new theater would “make a major statement that Sacramento has arrived.” Johnson has convened a task force that is exploring how to finance a new theater and to recommend the size and location of the facility.

“A new performing arts center, if we do it right, will be an extraordinary piece of architecture,” the mayor said.

City officials and performing arts groups have expressed a desire to either expand or replace the aging Community Center Theatre on L Street. The mayor’s task force is expected to provide recommendations by April on its findings. While no price tag for a theater has been revealed, the center is expected to cost in the neighborhood of $150 million.

Garry Maisel, president of Western Health Advantage and a member of Johnson’s task force, told the City Council last month that the group is “looking at private and public funding strategies.”

“Everything is on the table for consideration,” he said. He did not provide a cost estimate, but said, “We know it’s going to be a big number, without a doubt.”

Civic leaders want a new theater built downtown, near restaurants, hotels and the sports arena under construction. Johnson said Tuesday he would prefer the facility be placed near the Convention Center that is adjacent to the current theater.

The theater committee is also looking at potential seating arrangements and capacities. Members told the City Council that the California Musical Theatre prefers a facility seating at least 2,000 for its Broadway series, while groups such as the Sacramento Ballet, Opera and Philharmonic would likely request seating of between 1,200 and 1,800.

The seating configuration in some theaters, such as the Tobin Center in San Antonio and the Cerritos Center in Southern California, can be altered to accommodate different performances. The task force is examining those facilities, along with performing art centers in Austin, Texas, Indianapolis and Kansas City, Mo.

Call The Bee’s Ryan Lillis, (916) 321-1085. Read his City Beat blog at