By Tim Hunt
Hurray--an agreement to continue Bankhead Theater performancesUploaded: Jul 15, 2014
Many Livermore residents as well as cultural arts lovers throughout the valley are celebrating that the city and Alameda County have figured out a path forward to continue operating the Bankhead Theater.
The theater, operated by the Livermore Valley Performing Arts Center, has been burdened with a $22.3 million debt to the Bank of New York Mellon. The grand vision for the performing arts center was a dual theater complex with a 2,000-seat regional performing arts center serving as a magnet to downtown Livermore while local arts groups served their constituencies through the 500-seat Bankhead.
The regional theater went on life-support when the state Legislature, at Governor Jerry Brown's behest, wiped out redevelopment agencies. Redevelopment funds paid for the upgrade to downtown Livermore and were the lynchpin to financing the much larger regional theater that would envisioned to compete with arts facilities in San Jose, Oakland and San Francisco. The arts group sued the state, but lost the first round. It is unlikely that it will prevail in court.
In the meantime, the bank wanted payment on its note. The Bankhead has been a quality venue for local groups as well as the varied performance series that the LVPAC group produces. The deal has the city borrowing against its revenue from the settlement agreement from legal action against the Altamont landfill. Supervisor Scott Haggerty directed that revenue to the city instead of freeway improvements, which is the true impact of the 18-wheelers carrying trash to the dump. The dump fees are a steady revenue stream that will secure the note to pay off the bank. The city and the county will own the facility, but it will be operated by the arts non-profit.
The arts group, however, will still need to raise $4 million this year to cover its operating costs. Group President Linda Watkins said last month that they were almost halfway there with $1.6 million committed. She said that 32,127 residents attended events last year.
The theater is a genuine community asset and it's great that a way forward has been developed.
It should be noted, however, that Las Positas College has an equivalent facilitythe Barbara Fracisco Mertes Performing Arts Centerand the leadership of the city effort and the college could not figure out how to cooperate and/or complement each other with facilitiestaxpayers or garbage ratepayers are picking up the costs of both.