As someone who’s tired of driving to Richardson to see a recital or to Dallas for a musical, I was eager to sit in on the recent Performing Arts Center Feasibility Study at the City Council/Staff Summer Work Session. As a strong supporter of the City’s efforts to seek outside input about the future of the Arts in Frisco, it was great to see a packed house!
As a former President of the Frisco Association for the Arts with a great interest in this topic, I was on the edge of my seat!
The Three Phases of Determining Feasibility
There are three phases of the feasibility study, all directed toward determining the size and needs of a potential performing arts center in Frisco. The study includes a needs assessment, business planning, and, finally, a concept design.
The needs assessment that was presented during the session was heavily focused on the market condition, looking at the interest and demands of users. It takes into account facilities within 30 miles and compares the amenities/conditions of said facilities.
The potential benefits and impact on the community are fairly obvious.
The primary indicator of arts support in a community is the education level of the residents. In a community like ours where 41 % of residents have a bachelor’s degree and there’s relatively high affluence with a median family income at about 150k, it’s believed that a performing arts facility would thrive.
Based on more than 40 stakeholder interviews and surveys of numerous local arts groups, the Frisco-based architecture firm Parkhill, Smith, and Cooper (PSC) concluded that there’s a definite gap in the needs being met for our community. They looked at the previous demands of our performing arts organizations and forecasted interest while also taking into account the 106 facilities that are within 30 miles of Frisco. Of course, this also included the Frisco ISD auditoriums that seat roughly 500 people each.
Currently, many of the performing arts groups are going outside of Frisco to Allen, Plano, and McKinney to meet the demand that cannot be accommodated by our local facilities.
Based on existing programming, a venue that fits 300-500 is needed in our community right now.
While some might say that the new Music City complex on the tollway would meet the need, it’s important to note the different requirements of a performance space for live music (similar to Lava Cantina) versus a fine arts venue that would have numerous theatrical functionalities. Features would need to include appropriate lighting, acoustics, orchestra pits, concessions, fly lofts, and back of stage amenities like dressing rooms and storage.
Business Planning and Concept Design
Interested partners have come forth in varying capacities including UNT, Frisco Arts, FISD, and commercial interest, but money and defined roles have not yet been ironed out.
Overall, there are two primary suggestions for the City of Frisco:
- A 300-500 seat facility for community use which is currently in high demand and lacking in availability. The potential cost is 40-50 million dollars including parking and land. This was a defined need that should happen most urgently. For reference, it would be similar to a facility such as the Eisemann Center in Richardson.
- A 1,200 to 1,500 seat facility that will fill a defined gap not just in Frisco but in the region. Without a doubt, this would require a partnership with private entities and would cost in the 50-60 million dollar range. For reference, it would be similar to Bass Performance Hall in Fort Worth.
Flexibility and Sustainability
The vision is to have these two facilities share amenities by being built directly next to each other, providing flexibility for all stakeholders. No matter what, the feasibility concluded that there is a justifiable need for both – not one or the other. Mayor Jeff Cheney said, “Without a doubt, there is a need not being met.”
If the City of Frisco opted for only the larger facility, it wouldn’t be sustainable as it would likely not be cost-effective for community performing arts groups. In addition, these community groups could end up playing second fiddle to larger traveling theatre productions that would be drawn to our facility. The idea is that both of the suggestions in the feasibility study go hand in hand – not in competition with one another. Deputy Mayor Pro Tem John Keating said, “This is our chance to blow it out of the water, Frisco style!”
We need to be sure not to discount the needs of our community. If we decide on a 300-500 space and don’t move forward with it, then there’s potential for the large venue to never happen, or have it not meet the performing arts true needs when it eventually gets built. The multi-purpose angle is key.
The conversation has clearly changed since the infamous 2008 Arts of Collin County disappointment and the city is poised and ready for a venture in support of the performing arts. The City is growing along with demand, and with extremely passionate people at the helm, it all makes sense for Frisco at this time.
We’ve donated the land available but we just need one thing. A private entity ready to give money in partnership with the 14 million in bonds that we have earmarked for a performing arts center.
In short, this is a call to the public.
We have not actually had someone step up yet and say that they would give X amount of dollars to see this done. However, this cannot and will not be an excuse to at least move forward with the smaller venue. At a minimum, we need to meet the current needs of the community.
In short, this isn’t ready for a vote yet but the time is now for the community to step up with private funds and make the dream of both a small and large venue a reality. As it stands, using available bond funds we can definitely move forward with the smaller 300-500 venue to meet the needs of the community groups in the very near future, but the larger facility is in limbo without private funds.
We can do this, Frisco!