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Original post made on Jun 21, 2012

If you build it, they might not come. That is the quandary facing Menlo Park as the city tries to figure out how to use the multi-million dollar Menlo-Atherton High School Performing Arts Center. It turns out that filling 492 seats takes more than a state-of-the-art theater; it may even take outsourcing theater management.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, June 20, 2012, 3:42 PM

Comments (12)

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Posted by AM
a resident of another community
on Jun 21, 2012 at 12:12 pm

Maybe if the building didn't make me think of the Santa Cruz Mystery spot, with its strange angles and rooflines, people would use it more.

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Posted by Get Real
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jun 21, 2012 at 1:04 pm

Pay someone to run the theater??? Why not rent the use of the theater to a private group and actually turn it into a positive rather than negative impact on the city's budget?

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Posted by Norman
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 21, 2012 at 2:01 pm

Is this the same group that wants to build parking structures in downtown MP to attract business? Let them show that they can make good business decisions like filling up the performing arts center before they can embark on another 'projected' success.

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Posted by Star
a resident of Atherton: Lindenwood
on Jun 21, 2012 at 7:40 pm

Campbell's Heritage Theatre should be the model. It is well run and they consistently bring quality acts. It is a great place to see a concert. If this could happen in our community, it would be wonderful (and profitable). Finally give that place some purpose.

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Posted by POGO
a resident of Woodside: other
on Jun 22, 2012 at 6:14 am

Just another in a long line of empty promises from our elected officials.

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Posted by WhoRUpeople
a resident of another community
on Jun 22, 2012 at 8:21 am

I was a vocal critic of the school district spending the money to build the PAC, but to this issue I have to say all who have posted thus far are missing a very important point. The PAC is not a City of MP facility; it is a school district facility. MP paid some money to get 55 days a year of use with those days being significantly subject to availability due to the school district having priority. Just because MP can't figure out how to manage making efficient use of the days they have available doesn't mean the school district needs to change the way it manages use of the facility in any way. MP signed a terrible joint use agreement (it is available on both the City and District web sites. THe real solution to this rests in MP's Parks & Recreation Dept. where there is no one assigned to manage the City's 55 days of usage.

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Posted by Long Time Menlo Man
a resident of Menlo Park: Downtown
on Jun 22, 2012 at 12:58 pm

Come on Rich, say it like it is. It's easy to read between the lines regarding the use of the facility. The school says "Our stuff first and you (city) can use it every other third Tuesday of the month and every Monday - if we're not using it."

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Posted by Chewy Cabeza
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on Jun 22, 2012 at 1:12 pm

They should lure West Bay Opera over from Lucie Stern.

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Posted by A little History
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on Jun 22, 2012 at 4:33 pm

The City Council gave the school district $2M to help with the construction of the theatre at the request of then City Council Member Lee Duboc who had a long history on the City's Parks and Rec Commission in addition to a history of her children attending M.A. in addition to her leading the Measure T Ballot Measure that passed by nearly 70%. Many residents were concerned about the gift because it was never clear what the City would get in return. The Arts Commission had been suffered a death sentence and the enthusiasm for a City theatre group died when the Burgess theatre was torn down.

An option at the time was to buy the Park Theatre and build a City owned and operated Theatre Group as Palo Alto did many years ago.

Mixing City funds with the School District's funds should not have been approved. There's no surprise that problems have surfaced. The City doesn't have the personnel to oversee the City's investment. It was an idea that was not thought through and one of several reasons there was a sea change at the council election and lee Duboc and Micki Winkler lost their seats.

City funds approved by 70% of the voters should have been spent on the recreation items and the child care center that were described in the Ballot Language. A sad lesson learned.

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Posted by WCS
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jun 22, 2012 at 6:06 pm

There are many dance companies up and down the Peninsula dying to use the space. And it is a terrific space. My personal experience: As an rep for one of those companies, I filled out forms for the school requesting some dates. Weeks passed without a response. When I did reach the theater office, I was told that several of the dates were blacked out and another dance company also wanted to use one of the available dates. We were offered another potential date - but they couldn't actually commit. Couldn't get them on the phone or email to follow up again. After a couple of weeks, I showed up at the stage door to introduce myself. I was told they lost our paperwork and that we needed to resubmit it. Did that. Then it was back on hold for however long while they decided between us and another dance company. I eventually called Park and Req and there was someone very helpful assigned - but she also seemed to be struggling to get dates. In the end, Parks and Reqs secured the date. All told, it took ~three months of "checking in" to secure the date. There is no lack of interest in the space. There's actually a real demand for smaller professional dance companies and schools who compete madly with Theater Works for use of the Mountain View Arts Center and the Theater at Lucie Stern. The PAC is a perfect venue for their recitals and professional programs. But, yikes! It is really challenging to seal the deal. (Looks like both the City and the school have the schedule and can rent the space - but it's so not clear from the outside - who is really in charge.)

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Posted by WCS
a resident of Menlo Park: other
on Jun 22, 2012 at 6:13 pm

But, as another commenter said - it's a school resource first and MA doesn't seem equipped/positioned to deal with other than school customers.

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Posted by Stan
a resident of Portola Valley: Los Trancos Woods/Vista Verde
on Jun 25, 2012 at 11:30 am

This outcome for the theater was easier to predict than the raising and setting of the sun. It really serves as an apt poster child for the bigger issues of finances throughout our local, state and federal governments. There are just too many government autobots with too much "free" money available to them with the result that spending is outrageously out of control. With all of the little sugar bowl set asides for this that and the other special interests the net outcome is that there is extremely poor prioritization for spending on only the most important needs.

The whole theater boondoggle, undertaken in the face of known financial tough times is, in itself, ample justification to treat the officials who made the decision to spend this money no differently than Tim Hanretty - criminals who have made inappropriate use of public funds.

How about more spending to promote science in education so that we don't need so many H1B visas to import technical talent from other countries when we should be growing our own.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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