Any cultural and business development in Las Vegas is a good thing in our sputtering economy. But the Smith Center for the Performing Arts groundbreaking ceremony at the newly named Symphony Park yesterday in Las Vegas wasn’t just any commonplace development- it provides a significant cornerstone to energize the Las Vegas economy, not just when it opens early 2012, but all during the building crescendo.
“This is being built to be here for the next couple of hundred years and that’s significant in a town that has a tendency to blow things up after 30 to 40 years,” said Don Snyder, the center’s chairman told approximately 150 invited guests, including Fred W. Smith and wife Mary, the namesake for the center.
The Las Vegas Philharmonic and Nevada Ballet Theatre will be permanent residents of the center.
The center will be anchored by a 2,050-seat main theater and includes an education facility, a cabaret theater and space for children’s and community events.
Asked afterward about those skeptical of the money spent on the $485 million center and its cultural mission in a city that struggles to get past of its “Sin City” reputation, Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman had some choice words for skeptics:
“To those people I say, we have a lake out there, they can jump in it. And I’d put the cement on their feet…This is the equivalent of getting an NFL franchise…We still want to have great entertainment and hotels and food and bring in tourists, but for people who live here, these are things that make a world-class city.”
It’s been an especially rough and tumble time for new Las Vegas art and culture developments. A major boost, though, came on May 6, when the Las Vegas City Council approved the necessary agreements and funding for the long awaited $245 million Smith Center for the Performing Arts.
Dreams, with planning, apparently do come true. The groundbreaking that has been 15 years in the making has been tentatively scheduled for May 26. The construction on the concert hall and theatre building is expected to be complete by early 2012.
The Smith Center is to be the anchor facility of the new Las Vegas crown jewel- Union Park, a 61-acre development in downtown Las Vegas on what used to be a Union Pacific railroad yard. Plans for the center include a 2,050-seat multipurpose main hall; an education building that will house a 300-seat cabaret theatre; and a 200-seat flexible studio theater for rehearsals, children’s theater and community events.
Projected to create 1,000 new construction jobs, the completed center in Las Vegas will provide a permanent home to the Nevada Ballet Theatre and the Las Vegas Philharmonic.
Project construction funding is coming from multiple sources: $105 million from city bonds backed by a tax on rental cars; $68 million in bond money from Las Vegas’ redevelopment agency; and $75 million for the Donald W. Reynolds Foundation, which is also providing money for an operating endowment.
No concern was voiced in the Las Vegas City Council meeting about taking on such a large project in the midst of a recession, although the economic slump was mentioned.
(Please see related Dec. 30, Jan. 14, March 13, and March 20 Las Vegas Backstage Access articles.)
All is not gloom and doom when it comes to Las Vegas art funding in our recession. The Smith Center for the Performing Arts could break ground in as little as two months, thanks to the City of Las Vegas for being in the midst of finalizing a financing package that supports the construction and takes into account the impact of the economic downturn.
The total $485 million center is being financed by many seed revenue sources including $105 million in Las Vegas bonds that are being backed by a 2 percent tax on rental cars, which are planned to be sold by the end of this month; $85 million in bonds backed by revenues from the Las Vegas Redevelopment Agency (not operating funds); and $150 million or more from the private Donald W. Reynolds Foundation.
The City of Las Vegas total financial obligation for the center funding is $170 million.
The Smith Center for the Performing Arts will be the anchor tenant of the 61-acre Union Park development in downtown Las Vegas that is touted to be the “new Las Vegas,” with the center containing a 2,050-seat main theater as well as smaller performance spaces and classrooms, a park and outdoor theater. It will be the home of the Las Vegas Philharmonic and the Nevada Ballet.
Construction costs make up $245 million of the total $485 million estimated cost, with the rest of the funding pegged for an operation endowment and furniture, fixtures and equipment.
Construction is expected to generate 1,000 Las Vegas jobs over two years.
“We are stimulating the economy,” said Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman. “We’re stimulating our intellect in the community.”
The nonprofit arts group announced on March 10 that it is trimming its company of dancers from 31 to 22, reducing its administrative staff and leaving vacant positions unfilled. The Nevada Ballet Theatre also has postponed its season finale, “New Work ’09,” which had been set for performance May 15-17. That performance is now planned to be incorporated into next season’s schedule.
Further, season subscribers are being urged to donate their tickets back to the ballet to show support during its economic struggles. To supplement this revenue, an anonymous donor has pledged to match up to $50,000 in contributions received before June 30.
Nevada Ballet Theatre has been beset by declining donor contributions and ticket sales and drop in tuition revenue from its academy.
The Smith Center for the Performing Arts in Las Vegas is targeting a 2011 opening, including a theatre that the ballet company has been planning to share with the Las Vegas Philharmonic.
Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman was positive and upbeat when delivering his State of the City address on January 13, saying, “We’re not going to abandon our vision of being a great city,” talking to 350 people listening to his address at the Fifth Street School. Continued investments in downtown Las Vegas projects, he said, were necessary to sustain the economy in the short and long-term.
And several projects were specifically singled out as requiring continued support: Union Park, Smith Center for the Performing Arts (soon to break ground), the nearly completed Lou Ruvo Brain Institute, and the start of construction for a World Jewelry Center, a Charley Palmer restaurant/hotel, and a new city hall building.
Curiously, the mayor mentioned nothing in his address on his favorite high-profile project: the Las Vegas Museum of Organized Crime and Law Enforcement, commonly referred to as the “Mob Museum.” The project has been mocked and scorned nationally since it was reported that Goodman put it on his “wish list” to receive funding from the pending federal stimulus package.