RP council votes to support Spreckels and youth program
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By Mira Brody  March 14, 2014 12:00 am

The staff of the Spreckels Performing Arts Center proposed this week the Rohnert Park City Council adopt a resolution to authorize unrestricted endowment funds to facilitate theater productions as well as amend the budget to make possible a summer youth program.

The council unanimously voted 5-0 in support of Spreckels Theater Manager Gene Abravaya and Public Works Director John McArthur’s presentation.

“Gene, I’ve seen what you’ve done in the last couple of years and it’s just amazing,” RP Mayor Joseph Callinan said. “This is what that fund is for, and not only are you going to keep Spreckels alive, but you’re going to make a profit from it. You have my wholehearted support.”

In the past, money to keep the Spreckels Center running has been a strain on the General Fund, and in 1989 the Preforming Arts Center (PAC) Endowment Fund was created in order to offset these costs. 

Because of its success the last few years with vastly popular shows such as “Willy Wonka” and “Scrooge,” (Scrooge generated over $8,000 alone), the PAC has since been providing a great service to the community as well as turning a profit. 

To release about $500,000 of the endowment for theater expenses would not only fund plays but also a youth summer camp that would generate an estimated $12,000 from the camp tuition alone.

“The benefits of this are that it will release the impact on general funds,” stated McArthur. “It also furthers the intent of the endowment fund, which is to provide affordable entertainment for the public and provide charitable funds to the PAC.”

In addition to the proposed budget amendment, the Rohnert Park Foundation has come together to create “Friends of PAC,” providing the center with the benefits that a non-profit receives such as fundraising and access to grants, which could make the center even more self-sufficient. Friends of PAC would also provide staffing for benefit events.

“We are interested in finding creative ways to have local businesses sponsor the shows at Spreckels,” said Kim Nords, whose children are active in the plays at Spreckels and would attend the summer camp. “Live theatre is special and precious, but we all know the budget constrains that have been happening for the last 10 years or so. I think this is a program really worth getting creative about.”

Denise Elia Yen, who has worked as a stage director across Sonoma and Marin counties, as well as acted in New York and is known for her role of Annie Oakley in “Annie Get Your Gun,” also vouched for the proposal and would be appointed head drama teacher if the camp took place.

“Spreckels is the best place to be,” she stated. “It is where I want to be. It really is a gem in our community.”

“Having this continued is absolutely essential,” Councilwoman Pam Stafford said. “All the productions coming up are great productions and I can’t wait to see them. I am absolutely for this. The summer youth program is awesome.”

Based on past experience, the revenue generated from the productions at Spreckels is expected to exceed expenses, not only paying the endowment back, but adding to the General Fund as well.

“We’ve established a Rohnert Park Foundation, let’s use it,” said Councilman Jake Mackenzie. “The Friends of the Performing Arts Center have shown us that they want this to go on, so we thank them for that.”

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