Oxnard City Council: Performing Arts Center fate debated

oxnardperfomingartsctrBy George Miller

A spirited discussion took place, treatment at the Feb. 4 City Council meeting, for sale on what to do about the deterioration of the Performing Arts Center (PACC) , operated by the Oxnard Performing Arts Center Corporation (OPACC).  It hasn’t even had a director in two years), has low facility utilization and poor financial condition, causing major hemorrhaging of cash from its enterprise fund. This prompted subsequent research, presentation by staff and this review by the Council.

The Arts Center, golf course and theater are three big money losers dragging down the city’s finances.  The golf course was debated last week. Staff options presented for handling it were not well received, so Council and residents sent them back to the drawing board, with a one month deadline to come up with something better.

But the Arts Center is a different story. Virtually all speakers agreed that it is a keeper, a cultural treasure for the city.  Mayor Tim Flynn reminisced nostalgically about its former glory, when it was busier, more aggressively run, shinier and newer than it is now. Some parties believe that it is OK for major subsidies for such worthwhile purposes. Others feel that better management/marketing could not only reduce the financial drain, but also support more activities and improve the facility. Finance Director James Cameron advocated a city takeover and folding it all into the general fund, which he said would improve control and flexibility.  Not all present believed that moving the PACC into the General Fund would improve things, especially Councilman MacDonald.

Mayor Flynn, Mayor Pro-Tem Ramirez and resident Steve Nash all advocated use as a magnet school. Abel Mangamo criticized the “dated” website, lack of direction & marketing and stressed a need to get an interim director. Ms. Ramirez also advocated getting a director, remarked that the Center is underutilized, but has some good regular clients. She remarked that the U.S. Symphony does its own marketing.

The Council voted unanimously to accept Staff’s recommendation, but not bring PACC back into the General Fund at this time.  They resolved to confer with other cities on their experiences and look into the best future use of facilities.

Problems and options discussed

  • No director for the last two years
  • Expenses $1.475 million are nearly triple revenue of $485 thousand.  There is a cumulative FY shortfall of $1.6MM.

PerfartsCashFlow2-4-14

From Oxnard staff report

  • Marketing program is weak
  • Facility needs sprucing up

StrengthsPerfArtsHilights

  • Central location
  • Much beloved by community
  • Some “anchor” customers- Jehovah’s Witnesses, New West Symphony, Latino music acts, bingo, gem society, ballroom dancing
  • Outstanding acoustics
  • Multiple rooms, uses
  • Extra land, for parking or expansion

Suggestions

  • Hire a director quickly, interim one initially
  • Create and implement business and marketing plans
  • Make part of  PACC into a magnet school
  • Renew operating contract, get new operator, or city take it over.
  • Close the Enterprise Fund and put it into General Fund (no approval)
  • Find more private sponsors, such as Thousand Oaks does, which subsidizes only 20% of its center, has, vs. about 70% for Oxnard.
  • Find grants

OxnardPerArtsTheatre

Main theater- capacity 1604 persons

Facility capacities:

Room

Dimensions

Sq. Ft.

Theater

Conference

Assembly

Banquet

Auditorium

40,736

1604

Lobby

1610

200

100

400

Stage

50 x 100

5000

400

250

500

Green Room

18 x 22

396

40

25

50

Hueneme Room

19 x 22

418

45

30

50

Thousand Oaks Room

19 x 22

418

45

30

50

80

Santa Paula Room

19 x 25

475

45

25

50

25

Camarillo Room

19 x 22

418

45

25

50

25

Fillmore Room

19 x 22

418

45

25

50

25

Youth Center

59 x 59

3481

125

100

150

100

Ventura Room

50 x 80

4000

300

250

400

250

Oxnard Room

92 x 92

8464

700

500

1000

500

 

A look at the rental brochure showed that theater and convention rates are pretty good, but the terms on the smaller rooms, especially conditions/restrictions and “red tape,” might be prohibitive for smaller organizations/events.

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George Miller is Publisher of Citizensjournal.us and a “retired” operations management consultant, active in civic affairs, living in Oxnard.

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