Arts facility fundraising reaches home stretch
MCBPAC officials set sights on $3 million by year’s end to trigger start of project
Originally published 2013-07-04
Leaders behind the Mt. Crested Butte Performing Arts Center (MCBPAC) believe they are $3 million away from creating an economic, educational and cultural game-changer for the Gunnison Valley.
That’s the amount still needing to be raised, they say, to make the dream of building a performance hall, conference center and multi-purpose gathering-place in Mt. Crested Butte a reality.
In the past three months, organizers have embarked on a silent fundraising campaign that has netted pledges from 23 individuals totaling $3 million, according to MCBPAC Executive Director Woody Sherwood. The goal between now and the end of 2013 is to match those pledges via a widespread, public fundraising effort.
If successful, this campaign would bring the total amount raised — between private funds, government and other donations — to $17 million. Which is enough, leaders say, to go forward with the project.
“It literally vests the project,” said Bud Franks, a consultant who has performed fundraising and operational feasibility studies on the plans. “It means the project will happen.”
The idea behind creating a new performing arts facility at the north end of the Gunnison Valley goes back to the early 2000s, explained Sherwood. It originated with the Crested Butte Music Festival (CBMF), and the sentiment among its organizers that they were outgrowing their existing venues — which include the Crested Butte Center for the Arts building, private homes, a barn and other creative locales.
“We have outgrown our suit,” said Alexander Scheirle, the artistic and managing director of the CBMF.
Early on, a large-scale planning effort was embarked upon, involving the CBMF, the Center for the Arts, both towns (Crested Butte and Mt. Crested Butte), private businesses (including Crested Butte Mountain Resort) and others. All sorts of locations were looked at, Sherwood noted.
Ultimately, a 1.8 acre parcel at the base area in Mt. Crested Butte — that’s currently utilized as the “upper,” over-flow parking lot for the ski area — was selected as the site.
Part of this ground was owned by the town, the other by CBMR. They both agreed to donate it to the MCBPAC cause, and a nonprofit entity was born to spearhead its transformation into a hub of creative, commercial, convention and other activity.
Along the way, the concept has garnered widespread support from community leaders — from Western State Colorado University to the Rocky Mountain Biological Laboratory.
As part of his feasibility study, Franks said his team interviewed about 60 individuals up and down the Gunnison Valley. “What we found was really widespread support for the idea,” he said.
At the same time, the Crested Butte Center for the Arts is looking to upgrade its facility as well. Its leaders recently approached the Town Council to test the waters on how they would feel about demolishing the dated, 210-seat center in town and building a new one from scratch.
Which leads to the question: Can the Center for the Arts and the MCBPAC each achieve their goals, or are they in competition with one another?
MCBPAC members have built an argument that two facilities build synergy, not competition.
They say the Center for the Arts has endorsed a two-facility concept. They’ve pointed to similar mountain resort towns — including Aspen, Telluride and Steamboat Springs — that successfully operate two facilities, with one large one (the MCBPAC is proposing a 500-seat performance space) and one smaller.
They say a new performing arts center enables all local arts organization to grow their capacities. And they say common management practices between the two facilities, to coordinate schedules and control overhead expenses, are being explored.
The financial pieces to this puzzle began forming years ago, and they really began with a commitment from Mt. Crested Butte’s Downtown Development Authority. This is the legal entity that captures a piece of property tax growth within a certain boundary — in this case, the core of Mt. Crested Butte — and through a mechanism called tax increment financing promotes future development of a town.
The Mt. Crested Butte DDA, which consists of a board of directors appointed by the Town Council, committed $6 million to this project. Private donations prior to 2012 were secured to the tune of $2.6 million. The donated piece of property was valued at $2.4 million.
The agreement between the town and the MCBPAC has built-in “trigger points,” Sherwood explained. One is that when cash contributions total $8 million — bringing, with the DDA commitment and the land value, an overall project pool of money to approximately $17 million — it’s go-time.
“That’s when we have to go into final planning,” Sherwood said. “That’s when you know you have a project.”
If the $3 million in recent pledges are matched by an additional $3 million, this, plus the initial $2.4 million in private funds, tips the project past that trigger point.
Jim Hogue is the chairperson of the MCBPAC’s capital campaign committee. He said already, in just the past couple of weeks, they’ve raised $235,000 toward this $3 million goal.
While they have several large donations already on the books — including two $1.25 million “naming” donors who are not yet being identified publicly — they say no amount is too small.
“We’re trying to get as many people invested as possible, because it gives them ownership,” Franks said.
“Really, what it’s all about is building community,” Hogue added.
(Chris Dickey can be contacted at 970.641.1414 or email@example.com)