The Poconos Notices our MCPAC Woes

by jhwygirl

Short and brief. The Pocono Record took notice of Patrick Duganz’s recent Independent piece on the Missoula Performing Arts Center (MCPAC).

You remember – the story which the Missoulian decided wasn’t news?

I also came across this piece too. It serves to remind me (and you) that this issue is not just that of the City Council’s realm – the County Commissioners are complicit also, in that they would be the ones to put the $20,000,000 bond on the ballot.

Merlyn Clark, professor emeritus of Political Science at East Stroudsburg University, who taught state and local government for 35 years provides us with this gem:

Let’s do the math. Beginning with a conservative assumption that 2,500 of these 5,850 houses are purchased by senior citizens or otherwise childless households, let’s also assume that the remaining 3,350 houses average just two children per house, and that the occupants of all 5,850 houses pay $5,000 per year in school property taxes. This is about $1,200 more than the current average property tax of $3,840 in the East Stroudsburg School District.

We also know that the cost of educating a child is approximately $12,000 per year. Here’s what we get. Annual revenue generated from school property taxes from this 5,850 house development: $29 million. Annual cost to the school district/taxpayers: $80 million–leaving a mind-boggling $51 million deficit, every year, to be picked up by the balance of the taxpayers in the school district, regardless of whether they ever darken the door of the arts center. And that’s just the beginning. We haven’t even started improving roads or providing other obligatory services.

In the mid-1990s, early boosters of the arts center concept approached Monroe County Commissioners James Cadue, Janet Weidensaul and Greg Christine with a request that the county guarantee $12 million in bonds to get the project under way. Commissioner Cadue asked a simple question: If the arts center is such a good idea, why can’t you get private money to underwrite it? Blank stares from the boosters netted them no support. But even bad ideas, if driven by the lure of sufficient gain for a few, can survive.

Maybe we should ask him to do some math for us?

If not for us, how about for the children?

  1. g. hooligan

    Senior citizens need to think of the FUTURE!

    …and, of course, we need to redistribute their wealth. Senior citizens are, after all, the wealthiest single age group in America.

    “If the arts center is such a good idea, why can’t you get private money to underwrite it?”

    Shewt, that guy talks just like Ayn Rand.


  2. “Boosters” is right. The promoters don’t care what happens as along as they get what they want. Then they’ll make the scene on opening night and congratulate each other on how cultured and forward-looking they are. Only, a sit-down theater complex just is so 1910.

  3. Jim Lang

    If the Wilma, the University Theater, et al, where booked with performances 60% of the time or more, it would indicate that we need another venue of that size.

    But the next scheduled show at the Wilma is January 22 (Sound Tribe Sector 9 – I’ll be there!). Next scheduled show after that is in March.

    The University Theater lists 6 events in December – only 1 in January.

    If the school district needs a performing venue, is there some reason they are unable to utilize one of these two spaces? Have they investigated any arrangement with the new owners of the Wilma or the U?

    Why do we need another small theater in town when there are two others being underutilized in this fashion?

  4. Jedediah Redman

    Anybody yet suggested a lid for the ball park..?

  5. JC

    JIm, the school district does utilize the University theatre. It’s just that the stage there, and at the Wilma aren’t suitable for the productions. They just aren’t big enough. The shows there are really difficult for the performers, as they’re crammed in on top of each other, and in some cases, some of the performers are out in the hall stage right.

    The Wilma, being privately owned, is not a public resource, and has no obligation, especially with the new ownership, to provide a venue for the school district. It likewise has too small of a stage for many of the shows the school district puts on.

    At risk of being booed off the stage, those who suggest that usage patterns of either the Wilma or the U theatre predict need or potential failure of a PAC need to remember that many shows do not book Missoula because of the limitations of those two venues.

    One of my criticisms about the current MCPAC proposal is that it’s seating numbers could be a little higher, so as to attract even more shows. As it is currently proposed, it will seat about 400 more than either the U Theatre or the Wilma. That’s not enough distinction in my estimation, to justify the expense.

    Another problem is the second theatre in the facility. Given all the other smaller theater venues in town, like the MCT, Masquer and the Montana Theatre, I would rather not see a PAC compete with them, and instead focus on a slightly larger, more diverse facility, maybe around 1600-1800 seats, with the ability also to section it off for smaller shows that demand a larger stage than what Missoula currently provides.

    Seating capacity at the Wilma most likely will be reduced slightly as the seating is gradually replaced in the future.

  6. Jim

    If the school district does in fact have any events scheduled at the University Theater, they haven’t been listed on the theater’s event page:

    Of course the owners of the Wilma have no ‘obligation’ to provide a venue. That does not mean that a mutually beneficial deal is impossible.

    it will seat about 400 more than either the U Theatre or the Wilma. That’s not enough distinction in my estimation, to justify the expense. – that is my point. We seem to agree, in essence.

    I wasn’t aware that a second, smaller theater was planned for the PAC as well. I agree – it’s completely unneeded.

  7. JC

    Jim, I don’t know of any upcoming school district concerts at the U. I just know that I have attended quite a few high school concerts, and some other, special district concerts there in the past.

    As to the WIlma, a group of Hellgate students right now are trying to figure out how to rent it, given the high cost ($2,000+ base, plus amenities). They need a facility to provide a venue for Hellgate and Big Sky seniors to put on their senior projects. Neither school has a facility that can handle their needs. The new management has no track record as a venue for school district performances, so it remains to be seen if can be utilized in a reasonable fashion.

    A public PAC, funded in whole or in part by a County school bond, on the other hand, would provide a free venue for students to use. A great way to stimulate interest in, and experience with the performing arts for our children.

    A point that needs to be made, is that the County has indicated that it feels the need to forward a bond to provide for a facility for its students. Even given that MCPAC may fail, that still leaves the County supportive of the need, and to provide the funding, for a performance center.

    Maybe a $20 million dollar County school district facility is all we need in this town. If the people of this County can support a $20 million dollar jail (and subsidize state prisoners), and the City an $18 million dollar police station (complete with new Crown Victorias), can they also support a $20 million dollar facility for the kids?

  1. 1 Missoula’s Newest Big Money-Sucking Project « 4&20 blackbirds

    […] of this 4&20 might remember my skepticism of the now (seemingly…I do believe in zombies) defunct Performing Arts Center fiasco of 2 years […]

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