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Monday, May 29, 2023

Valley Performing Arts Center Seeking Corporate Interest

California State University, Northridge officials are gearing up for the opening of the school’s $125-million Valley Performing Arts Center and are hoping sponsorship perks and event space will entice corporate donors. Construction for the 1,700-seat center is about 85-percent complete and the center is just five months away from its grand opening gala on Jan. 29. Yet corporate sponsorship for the center has not been as strong as the project’s planners had originally hoped for, said Gailya Brown, senior director for the Valley Performing Arts Center campaign. “We tried to launch a corporate campaign effort a couple of years ago, and the timing coincided with the economy kind of falling apart,” Brown said. “So, we did not have a lot of luck with that effort. … At this point, the announcement of the gala has triggered new interest.” The center’s fundraising team has so far reached about half of its $50 million fundraising goal for the Valley Performing Arts Center and commitments for a little more than a third of its $1.6 million fundraising goal for the Jan. 29 opening gala, Brown said. Interest in sponsoring the project is expected to increase after officials announce the performers for the gala and the center’s first season. School officials expect to announce the gala performance lineup in a couple of weeks and the season lineup on Oct. 27. “We already have a number of good artists who are committed (to the gala) – world-class dancers, pop singers, classical musicians, a jazz musician and well-known actors,” Brown said. Meanwhile, the university has spread the word about its fundraising campaign by distributing about 40,000 newsletters, talking to community groups, setting up a Web site and conducting tours. The university’s officials have even recruited local business leaders to send letters out to the community. Event site To capture the interest of businesses and business groups, the center’s planning team is emphasizing the potential for the building to serve as an event site and as company perk. “The center is extremely flexible, so there are a number of venues for meetings and events and private parties,” Brown said. “It’s going to be a great place for local businesses to entertain their clients, to train their staff, to create workshops and conferences and other things that would serve their industries.” The Valley Economic Alliance has already selected the center for its Valley of the Stars Gala next summer, which has previously been held at locations such as The Academy of Television Arts & Sciences and The Walt Disney Studios. “When it happened, we just figured this is going to be a jewel in the Valley, and it fits with a lot of things that we have worked to secure for the San Fernando Valley,” said Harvey Berg, a member of the organization’s board and management committee. Companies can also purchase seat sponsorships in the main performance hall and offer tickets for shows in the seats to employees and clients. Seat sponsorships can be purchased for $25,000 each. The donors’ names are displayed on the seats for 20 years and are available for the performance series the donors subscribe to. Other sponsorship benefits include an exclusive dinner performance for major donors before the center’s official opening, 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. Community investment Those who are donating are doing so because they see it as an investment into the community. “It’s going to be an economic stimulus for the Northridge area,” said Cary Lefton, CEO of Sherman Oaks-based Agora Realty & Management, Inc., who made the commitment about six months ago to donate $25,000. “I think it’s going to be a catalyst for development in the surrounding area, certainly for more fine dining and retail.” Lefton is also a member of the business and economic advisory board for the university’s business school. Another sponsor said he was impressed with the center’s design. “They have some architectural elements that have historically worked very well in the past, and they have introduced new designs that are very innovative,” said Walter Perez, CEO of Walt Construction Corporation, based in Simi Valley. “I personally liked the layout of how the performers would enter into the facility and where they perform and where they practice.” Valley Presbyterian Hospital is making a $50,000 table sponsorship for the gala. David Fleming, chairman of the Valley Economic Alliance and Valley Presbyterian Hospital’s boards of directors, made a personal donation with his wife for $1 million. Fleming is also chairman of the center’s fundraising committee. “The performing arts have been pretty much absent in what I call the five Valley areas, which is the San Fernando Valley, the Santa Clarita Valley, the Antelope Valley, Simi Valley and the Conejo Valley, because they’re so far removed from Los Angeles,” Fleming said. “This is really a culmination of the work of a lot of people over the last 40 years to try to build something like this in the Valley.” While the economic downturn has led to hesitation by some business owners to give, Fleming said he is confident the center will reach its fundraising goals. “Considering the economic times that we live in, we’re ahead of where we would be,” he said. “I think as the economy improves, we’ll certainly be able to do the final phase of fundraising.”

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