A sound and smart plan to update two Sacramento arts venues

By Richard Lewis, Randy Paragary and Nancy Garton

Special to The Bee

October 17, 2016 06:00 AM

The cast of the Broadway Sacramento presentation of “Motown The Musical” perform at the Community Center Theater in May. Joan Marcus
The cast of the Broadway Sacramento presentation of “Motown The Musical” perform at the Community Center Theater in May. Joan Marcus

Golden 1 Center is a tremendous driver for Sacramento’s economic and cultural renaissance, but it represents only one of many steps needed to push our city to reach its potential.

A critical vote by the City Council on Tuesday will decide the fate of Sacramento’s Community Center Theater, an equally important and iconic venue for Broadway shows and ballet and opera performances.

The question hasn’t been whether we should transform the theater, but how best to do it so that performances can continue during construction. We are pleased to report that after more than a decade of discussions, city leaders and staff have developed a plan that is sound and smart, and has support from business and labor leaders and has unanimous backing from all primary users, including Sacramento Philharmonic & Opera, Sacramento Ballet, California Musical Theatre, Sacramento Choral Society & Orchestra and Sacramento Speakers Series.

The plan calls for spending $83.4 million to refurbish and update the theater. It also calls for $16.2 million to update Memorial Auditorium with new seats, improved acoustics, accessible restrooms and many other amenities so that it will work for all arts groups during the 2019-20 season while Community Center Theater is transformed.

This approach significantly reduces the project cost by making it possible to work on the theater uninterrupted for a full year, and will create two updated venues for the performing arts. The planned improvements for both the auditorium and theater will dramatically enhance the experience for patrons, utilize the best technology and bring amenities into the 21st century.

The project will also create tremendous economic benefits – construction and engineering jobs in the short term and reinvigorating K Street and supporting restaurants and entertainment venues in the long term.

Golden 1 Center is a great example of what can be achieved when Sacramentans – elected officials, business leaders and community members – rally together to move our city forward. We’ve heard a lot over the last few years about making Sacramento a great city that showcases its natural beauty, architecture, universities, music, food and a diverse population.

But we also need to invest in the performing arts. A truly great city should be a portal to life-enhancing arts and culture that inspire future generations to pursue their dreams. It’s time for all of Sacramento to rally behind and support investment in a new Community Center Theater.

Richard Lewis is president & CEO of California Musical Theatre and can be contacted at rlewis@calmt.com. Randy Paragary owns and operates Paragary’s and other restaurants in Sacramento and can be contacted at randy@paragarys.com. Nancy Garton is president of the Sacramento Ballet board of directors and can be contacted at nancy@gartonassoc.com.