At its May 5 dialogue meeting, the Austin ISD board of trustees weighed potentially naming the district's new performing arts center after a paid sponsor.
The district broke ground in August on the performing arts center, which will be a 68,000-square-foot building housing a 1,200-seat auditorium, 250-seat black-box theater and a recording studio for student use, among other amenities. It is scheduled to open during the 2014–15 school year.
AISD will establish a naming committee to help explore potential options, Interim Superintendent Paul Cruz said.
Cruz asked trustees what kind of process they would want to have for potentially naming the center, including whether it would consider a naming sponsorship. Current board policy would not allow the selling of naming rights, but revising policy would give the district another way to generate revenue, Cruz said.
"Given our budget climate, given our budget situation, do we want to look at that differently?" he asked the board, referring to the district's tight budget and shortfall of about $30 million.
Trustee Tamala Barksdale said she thinks sponsorship naming opportunities would not only help bridge the district's budget gap, but also attract national philanthropic arts entities that could help bring prestige, support and future opportunities to maintain the facility.
Trustee Ann Teich said while she understands the district's budgetary needs, she is unsure of how significant an improvement such a sponsorship could make in terms of the shortfall. Teich also requested more information about where potential funds from a naming sponsorship could go.
Funds could support districtwide fine arts programs and help pay for the center's operations costs, Trustee Cheryl Bradley said.
She said the board could undergo its usual process—in which the public can submit name suggestions—but also open up particular buildings or wings within the buildings for sponsorship.
Trustee Jayme Mathias asked if the board has to name the facility with its usual process.
"When the university builds [a new facility], it will be called Main Building until somebody pays money for it," he said. "Why do we automatically assume that we need to name that after someone in the community?"
Cruz said for now, the district can move forward with the name "Austin ISD Performing Arts Center."
Board President Vincent Torres said the naming committee can help research name searches conducted by similar and long-standing institutions and provide information about entities that are interested in sponsoring the center.
"We have a tremendous fine arts community that really could be very supportive," Torres said.