Labor of love in jeopardy

Paradise Performing Arts Center faces crucial test

LEGACY OF LEGENDS <br> The Paradise Performing Arts Center has played hosted to numerous high-profile shows and performers, including Bruce Cockburn.

The Paradise Performing Arts Center has played hosted to numerous high-profile shows and performers, including Bruce Cockburn.


From its inception, the Paradise Performing Arts Center has been a labor of love. Conceived, funded and built by a grassroots effort begun in 1978, the nonprofit facility was remarkable from the beginning as a testimony to the power of a united community.

Not that creating it was easy: Built in phases on a “pay-as-you-go” basis reflective of Paradise’s inherent conservatism, it took nearly 20 years to finish—and that happened only when its board took out its first and only loan, for about $600,000, to complete the final phase. Total cost was in the neighborhood of $3.2 million.

“Call it determination, if you will,” reads the facility’s official history, posted on its Web site. “You have to want something badly enough to make it happen. In Paradise, enough people wanted their own performing arts center to see it through.”

Since then, the 762-seat PPAC has been a state-of-the-art venue known for its comfort, good sightlines and splendid acoustics. It’s been the site of dozens of touring musical groups, theater productions and other events.

But it’s losing money. It needs to bring in $23,000 each month to pay its bills, and it’s not succeeding. This has led, in recent weeks, to a crisis that almost saw—and still could see—the facility sold to the school district for a relative pittance.

Once again, however, the Paradise community is rallying around its performing-arts center.

In early June, the Board of Trustees of the Paradise Unified School District began discussing the idea of purchasing the PPAC. Members of the PPAC board reportedly had approached the district in a desperate effort to keep the facility’s doors open in the face of ongoing losses.

The PUSD board took the offer seriously. The district had long wanted a performing-arts site for students, and this seemed like a good opportunity to get one at a fire-sale price, as well as help the PPAC stay open.

The school district does not have a place for music, dance or drama productions, Superintendent Roger Bylund explained, and the district wants to show that it can build an outstanding performing-arts program, while allowing the PPAC to stay open and continue operations.

“When we learned that the PPAC was in danger of closing, we met and this plan evolved,” Bylund said in an email. “PUSD wants facilities that support our students and outstanding teachers in athletics, performing arts, career education, and all programs.”

PUSD would purchase the theater for around $700,000 using funds that are designated only for facilities, Bylund said. The money would not come from Measure M bond money that is designated for a new or renovated gymnasium.

But at the trustees’ June 18 meeting, according to a report in the Paradise Post, the board was approached by Paradise resident Bill Anderson, who said he is part of a group of community members trying to find another way to save the PPAC. “We don’t think the school board should own it,” he reportedly said. “The community has stepped up to the plate over and over again,” and it will do so again, he insisted.

The plan Anderson described involved finding 500 people to pledge $1,000 every year for the next five years so that the PPAC can stay open independently. Already, $23,000 has been raised, and the group has more than $80,000 in pledges.

As a result, the PUSD board decided to put its plan on hold until it learns how the PPAC board responds to Anderson’s effort.

As of Tuesday (June 23), the PPAC staff had been laid off for the summer in order to save money, but the facility will reopen sometime between the end of August and the beginning of September.