As the Valley Performing Arts Center’s Jan. 29 opening gala approaches, fundraising officials are continuing to seek support from the business community to help the center meet a funding gap. The 1,700-seat center, which will be the largest cultural venue ever in the San Fernando Valley, is located at California State University, Northridge. The facility will be officially introduced to the public at the gala where tickets are selling at $1,000 apiece. But while the dinner and performance is expected to add to the funds needed to help pay back financing for the construction that cost $125 million, officials say even more support is needed beyond the event. The fundraising campaign has made progress in recent months, said Gailya Brown, senior director of the center’s campaign. In August, the center still had to raise more than $25 million of its $50 million fundraising goal. By early January, that amount had dropped to about $17 million or $18 million. The center’s team has also made progress in its goals for the gala. It recently passed its $1 million gala sales mark, two-thirds of the way toward its initial goal of raising $1.6 million through ticket sales and table sponsorships. Funds raised at the gala will be applied to the larger campaign goal. Business support Brown said business support has added to that progress, with many of the sponsorships coming in recently. One avenue for businesses to donate has been through gala table sponsorships, starting at $10,000. Some companies that have sponsored tables include Valley Presbyterian Hospital, Northridge Hospital Medical Center, the local Providence medical centers and production company Participant Media, among others. Companies that have contributed both to the gala and directly to the general campaign include Pratt & Whitney Rocketdyne, Lamps Plus, and the National Notary Association, among others. And Brown said that’s not the end of it. “We’ve got some other proposals outstanding, and we’re getting individual tickets sold every day,” she said, adding that officials hope the gala will attract even larger donations. “We had hoped to have all the money raised at this point, but the economy interfered with that.” About 700 people were slated to attend the gala as of early January, and there is a capacity for about 940 people, who will have special seating for the gala performance. “It’s our hope that the gala is going to attract some people who are interested in supporting the campaign on a larger scale,” Brown said. Continued fundraising Once the gala is over, those raising funds for the center will still have a lot of work to do. “We’ll be talking to people in the community and businesses and (we’ll) continue to try and find a donor who would like to name the center,” Brown said, adding that the team will also continue pursuing smaller gifts. Robert Bucker, the center’s executive director and the university’s college of arts, media and communications, said once the funds are raised to finish paying for the center’s construction, officials will continue to seek out support for ongoing programming. One way the center can generate money, he said, is through advertisements in the performance programs. General marketing to promote the center’s spring season has included advertisements in periodicals, banner announcement on surrounding streets and 10 billboards that have been placed throughout the San Fernando Valley. While efforts have not yet been made for figuring out how best to collaborate with surrounding restaurants and other businesses, Bucker said that could happen in the future. “That’s certainly a possibility,” he said. “In order for those kinds of meaningful relationships to exist, I think we would need to reach significantly beyond the immediate neighborhood of the campus.” He added that the center opening should impact the surrounding community, including businesses. “It’s going to be bringing in a significant number of people into the immediate area that otherwise might not be driving down Nordhoff (Street) or driving down Reseda (Boulevard),” he said. Additional opportunities Other ways businesses can support the performing arts center is by sponsoring seats for $25,000 each, giving them the ability to offer tickets for shows to employees and clients. The sponsors’ names are displayed on the seats for 20 years. Other sponsorships benefits include free membership to the Founders Room, pre-public ticket sales for season performances and special appearances and permanent recognition on the Wall of Honor and in printed programs during the first season. Companies also have the opportunity to book rooms in the facility for special events.