FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
WHY IS THIS TAKING SO LONG?
Arts Center Task Force (ACTF) began our current efforts in 2011, and since then we have developed a series of studies, consultations with experts, and multiple conversations with the Tri-Cities community. In addition, we completed three critical technical documents: a conceptual design, a fundraising feasibility study, and a current business plan.
We know what the community’s needs and opportunities are, what money is available for capital, and what the activities will look like in the Arts Center once it’s built. Our next step is determining the site in partnership with the City of Richland and the Richland Public Facilities District.
WHERE DO YOU EXPECT TO BUILD?
We expect to build the Mid-Columbia Performing Arts Center (MCPAC) within the city limits of Richland in Columbia Park West, near The REACH Museum and overlooking the Columbia River.
HOW MUCH MONEY HAVE YOU RAISED?
Since 2011, we have raised about $2 million in direct and promised donations. The Arts Center Task Force has not officially launched a capital campaign. A full accounting of all funds raised for the facility will be available to the public throughout the effort.
WHAT IS THE ARTS CENTER TASK FORCE’S HISTORY?
Arts Center Task Force was incorporated as a non-profit 501c(3) organization in 1993 and became a Registered Charity in Washington State in 2017. Since it was formed, the Task Force’s mission has never wavered: build a performing arts center in the Mid-Columbia region. Three previous attempts in partnership with local governments did not move forward. Economic downturns and changing political winds forced the ACTF to delay its efforts.
HOW IS THIS TIME DIFFERENT? WHY NOW?
Three factors favor our success:
Private citizens are driving the process – Through an early benchmarking study, we learned groups of private citizens who led performing arts center developments were successful more often than government agencies.
Greater depth of information about the need and costs – Starting with our initial efforts, we have consistently garnered advice and input from people and organizations with a record of success in performing arts center development and fundraising. We have actively consulted with the arts groups in the Tri-Cities to understand their needs and obtain their commitments to use the facility. We have developed a business plan that shows the facility will be financially self-sustaining.
Demand for more entertainment – The Tri-Cities population is more than 300,000, according to 2020 census data. With this growth has come a demand for more entertainment options, and equivalent growth in performing and visual arts participation and audience sizes. We are currently the only community of this size without a performing arts center.
ARTS CENTER SIZE, AMENITIES, LOCATION
What is proposed to be built?
We propose to build a performing and visual arts center that includes the following:
An 800-seat theater with excellent acoustics, orchestra pit, orchestra apron and shell, fly space, off-stage space for people and storage, dressing and green rooms, professional-quality technical support, and loading dock
Flexible community room for smaller group performances, events, and educational activities, accommodating up to 200 people
Spacious lobby for pre- and post-show gatherings and private events
Food plating and beverage service area.
Why did you choose an 800-seat theater rather than a 2000-2300-seat theater like they have in Seattle and Spokane?
There are two main reasons:
Need – Our decision was based on a survey* of the needs of local and regional performing and arts groups; the economic viability of an 800-seat theatre for mid-size touring groups and the regional market’s lack of a mid-sized facility.
Cost to Build/Maintain – The estimated cost to build a 2000-seat theater was $85-150 million in 2013. Given our region’s population size, assets, smaller community sizes, and history of charitable giving, raising $85-150 million would not be possible here. Additionally, building operation and maintenance costs for a larger facility would be as much as three times higher, making the facility less desirable for local and regional arts groups to book. At the projected cost of $45 million, raising the funds through donations, grants, and public monies in itself remains a steep challenge.
BENEFITS OF THE ARTS CENTER
What’s in it for me if the Arts Center is built?
Individuals will be able to enjoy the arts and host guests and clients in a local facility of high quality and comfort.
Parents and grandparents will give their children and grandchildren the magical experience of seeing and participating in the many forms of artistic expression.
Businesses will profit by locating in a very desirable entertainment district.
Corporations and Hiring Managers will more easily recruit talented employees who want cultural experiences.
Performing and Visual Artists will have access to a central facility with outstanding acoustics and technical support.
Tri-Cities will be known as a regional cultural hub offering a full quality of life experience in a centralized location.
COMPETITION FROM OTHER CITIES
Many people travel to Seattle or Spokane to experience the arts. How will you encourage people to attend Arts Center events? The Arts Center will be designed for maximum performance quality and audience comfort. In addition to showcasing local visual and performing artists and organizations, it will provide a variety of mid-size touring performances and events. Tri-Citians already attend local performances, but they experience facilities having limited capacities and amenities in size, technical capabilities, or purpose. The higher quality experience at the Arts Center will encourage people to stay home for local and mid-size touring groups.
Can the Mid-Columbia support both the shows at the Toyota Center and the Arts Center?
Yes. The markets for the Toyota Center shows and the Arts Center are complementary, not competitive. Big Broadway and Vegas-style shows are adapted for the arena setting of the Toyota Center. These shows require a 2000+ seat audience to break even. The market for the Arts Center will serve the more than 40 well-established regional performing arts groups and many mid-size touring groups. Attending a show at the ice rink has a specific market, just as will attending a show at the Arts Center.
COST, BUDGET, DONATIONS
What is the estimated cost to build the Arts Center?
The construction estimate is $45 million based on a preliminary plan development by LMN Architects. The next building phase will require raising $750,000 to develop detailed specifications for the Arts Center. While the final estimates may change in the future, our mission to build the Arts Center will not.
Does this region have “that kind of money” to build the Arts Center?
Our research has shown that it does, but we will not spend any restricted contributions until we are certain the resources are available to build the facility as promised. With the support of state and local governments, communities, and businesspeople, we believe it is possible to fund this size of theater.
There are three sources of funds that we can access: donations, grants, and public funds. Through our fundraising efforts, we focus on donations from individuals and corporations, organizations, naming rights, and in-kind donors. All donations are recognized in writing at the time of the donation. Some donors also will be recognized within the facility.
If you are seeking the help of state and local government programs, do you plan to ask for a tax increase to fund construction?
We are exploring all sources of funding, including public funding, as a way to build the Arts Center. Originally, we had planned to accept donations and grants only. However, a feasibility study by Netzel Grigsby Associates was unable to find capacity to support a $40-million facility from private resources alone within the Mid-Columbia region. There are mechanisms available to access public funding at the state and local level that do not rely on a sales tax increase.
How will funds be spent prior to construction?
The Arts Center Task Force has two categories of funds: non-restricted and restricted. Non-restricted funds are used to fund operations of the organization and other non-capital expenses such as insurance. Restricted or capital funds are used for design and building of the Arts Center. Donors may earmark their donations as restricted. Donors also may give tangible assets such as stocks, bonds, and insurance benefits.
What is the funding model for performing arts centers in Spokane and Portland? What can we borrow from these organizations?
Programming decisions, community education tactics, facility maintenance models, and the value of a public entity supporting operations are lessons we can borrow from these organizations. We have also contacted at least three similarly sized centers in Washington and Oregon that share their experience.
Once the Arts Center is open how will you sustain its operations annually? While our partners make a financial investment in ACTF through membership and rental fees, we will rely on income from mid-size touring groups and private facility rentals to provide the necessary resources to operate the Performing Arts Center. While we aim to keep the Center self-sustaining, as a 501(c)3 this will not preclude our reaching out to the community and region for annual charitable contributions.
*ACTF took more than a year surveying the region’s needs and ability to meet the need for the center.