Editorials

B Street Theatre is a good investment

An artist’s rendition of the planned new B Street Theatre in midtown Sacramento is shown at a fundraiser last year.
An artist’s rendition of the planned new B Street Theatre in midtown Sacramento is shown at a fundraiser last year. jvillegas@sacbee.com

B Street Theatre, a Sacramento institution, is within sight of the finish line to pay for its new home. It’s asking the City Council for $2.5 million, a final piece to finance the $25.7 million project.

Council members should give the theater that pledge Thursday night. It’s a good investment in the arts community and in midtown, and it’s the kind of public-private partnership that benefits Sacramento.

The $2.5 million – a loan that would be forgiven over 20 years – would come from a contingency account funded by the sale of city land at Fair Oaks Boulevard and Howe Avenue.

Importantly, B Street would not get the city money until the rest of the financing is rock-solid – $8.6 million in federal tax credits that are scheduled to be awarded next February, plus an $8.4 million loan from the state’s infrastructure and economic development bank that was conditionally approved in May. The theater plans to repay debt mostly from surcharges on tickets.

Since starting in 1986, B Street has become popular and critically acclaimed, selling about 95,000 tickets and introducing about 200,000 school kids to live theater each year. It has outgrown its home on B Street, where performances are sometimes spoiled by noise from passing trains.

Plans call for a 250-seat main theater and a 365-seat secondary stage for children’s plays. The new complex is on land worth $6 million donated by Sutter Health near its new main medical campus at 27th Street and Capitol Avenue. Sutter is also pledging $50,000 a year to help pay operating costs.

The more spacious digs would allow B Street to serve 35,000 more children and families a year, officials say. Besides the construction jobs, visitor spending is projected to increase by $625,000 a year.

These days, attention is focused on the arena rising from Downtown Plaza and the revitalization of surrounding areas. That’s crucial to Sacramento’s prosperity. So is a thriving performing arts scene – and a new home for B Street Theatre is an integral part of that.

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