Setting the Stage: Performing Arts Center Hits Milestone to Accept City’s Land Donation

By: R.S. Douglas
From: A-J Media

LEPAA raises $2.7 million more than needed to move forward with plans for performing arts center

The spotlight was on the Lubbock Entertainment and Performing Arts Association as the organization pushed the idea for a new performing arts center from the wings to center stage.

No longer just a possibility, LEPAA announced Wednesday, March 26, it has raised enough money to move forward in building the new center in downtown Lubbock.

With $47.6 million in donations, the association has surpassed the amount needed for the city to donate the land occupied by the old Department of Public Safety building near Mac Davis Lane and Avenue K, according to LEPAA Chairman Tim Collins.

The organization received $100,000 from the Lubbock Area Foundation earlier this month and Suddenlink donated $10,000 at the event revealing the new total, though Collins said every gift helped reach the goal.

“We received gifts from $100 to $10 million, and each and every one of them has been important to us and signifies the faith and trust that the community is putting into this effort,” he said.

Still, the show must go on, and LEPAA will continue fundraising until it meets the goal of about $85 million for the construction. Mayor Glen Robertson furthered that initiative by presenting the organization with a $5,000 check at Wednesday’s event.

“Lubbock is not home to the Bass brothers, we don’t have a T. Boone Pickens, so when we need something like this, we have to do it as a community,” Robertson said.

While the funds are there, residents won’t see bulldozers on the 5-acre lot to the right of Marsha Sharp Freeway anytime soon, Collins said. The city has pledged up to $300,000 for the demolition of the building, but there are still municipal employees occupying the space.

“We’re not asking them to knock it down tomorrow, but they will be making that contribution to the demolition when the time is appropriate,” Collins said.

The employees working in the old DPS building are expected to move out this summer to make way for a 122,000-square-foot state-of-the-art entertainment and performing facility. It will be used for concerts, ballets, symphony performances, touring Broadway shows, lecture series, cultural exhibits and educational programs.

State Sen. Robert Duncan, R-Lubbock, made his biggest contribution to the project not financially, but through legislation, Collins said.

“Senator Duncan was responsible for the new DPS center coming to Lubbock,” he said. “Part of the negotiations in this project was to ensure that the city of Lubbock received the existing site back. How interesting that it sat right in the middle of the cultural arts district.”

Adding a new character to the playbill, the association has already entered into a deal with Garfield Public/Private, the Dallas-based development services firm responsible for the Overton Hotel and Conference Center, to start the initial plans for the new building.

“The predevelopment process is approximately six months, and during that time period we will hire architects and designers, and we will have a conceptual idea of what the building will look like,” Collins said. “After six months we will go into the formal drawing and design.”

While the center is still millions of dollars away from an opening night, a study earlier this year showed the new theater could give the local economy a major boost.

A feasibility study conducted by Garfield earlier this year showed the downtown newcomer could have an annual impact of $3.8 million in sales associated with performances at the center, and a one-time $157 million impact from construction.

The survey did not include the possible economic effects on the hotel and restaurant industries based on the new theater, or the employment of about 30 people.

Still some residents have expressed concern that publicly owned theaters may fall into disrepair after the new center opens, but Collins previously told A-J Media that outcome is unlikely.

While some of the performances native to the City Bank Auditorium and the Memorial Civic Center may relocate to the new venue, Collins said it likely won’t often compete with existing theaters because most touring shows are looking for a specific size space to perform.

Once built, the new center is expected to be slightly smaller than the City Bank Auditorium and larger than the Civic Center’s theater.