City committee eyes funds for new arts center

$25,000 in seed money would be used to create packet, drawings to attract donors

Posted: Tuesday, December 02, 2003

The Juneau Assembly's Committee of the Whole agreed Monday to consider funding $25,000 toward the first performing arts center in Juneau.

Eric Kueffner, chairman of the Mayor's Task Force for the Development of a Performing Arts Center, and Juneau Arts and Humanities Council Executive Director Sybil Davis appeared before the committee to present a November 2003 interim report on the center and ask for seed money. Davis is also a member of the task force.

The full Assembly is expected to discuss the funding request next Monday, Assembly member Marc Wheeler said. It is subject to a public hearing and would be put up for a vote at the Dec. 22 meeting.

Mayor Bruce Botelho suggested the city borrow against 2004 marine passenger fees so task force officials can move on with the project. Meanwhile, the city would borrow the money from one of its revenue accounts, City Manager Rod Swope said.

Kueffner and Davis plan to use the $25,000 to create a presentation packet and schematic drawings that they could take to potential donors, they said. They plan to target large national arts organizations and corporations. About two years ago, the city allocated $25,000 for the task force to study the performing arts center concept.

The center is estimated to cost $37 million and projected to create $152,000 a year in revenue. It would be located at the National Guard Armory because of its proximity to Centennial Hall, the report said. Kueffner and Davis hope the city will fund about $17 million, with organizations and corporations funding the remainder, they said.

Botelho favors a performing arts center, but questioned the location because the city does not own the armory site.

"This has been a dream in this community for years," Botelho said.

The arts center does not necessarily have to be at the armory, but some place near Centennial Hall so the two venues can work in concert, Kueffner and Davis said in an interview.

The performing arts center should be downtown near the waterfront, the report suggests. The arts center would accommodate a range of audience sizes and be used by tourists and local residents.

The main hall would seat about 1,200 and incorporate a balcony that can be closed off for smaller audiences. It also would have an additional hall that seats 400.

A downtown center would promote the arts and boost the local economy, according to the report.

"An investment in a downtown PAC (performing arts center) is arguably the single most important thing Juneau could do to not only promote the arts, but also to stimulate much desired year-round activity in downtown," the report said.

• Tara Sidor can be reached at tara.sidor@juneauempire.com.



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