Frisco residents push for $20M bond for arts facility

With the hope of a regional arts facility dissolving with the Arts Center of North Texas' end, focus has now shifted to a facility "in Frisco, by Frisco."

Frisco residents and the Community Development Corp. president made a presentation to the Citizen Bond Committee on Dec. 15 to make the case for a cultural and performing arts center in Frisco.

The requested bond support for a Frisco-based arts facility is $20 million, $1 million more than what Frisco residents originally approved to go toward the regional Arts Center of North Texas.

If approved by the Frisco City Council next year, a bond election for a facility would be held in May.

The points made for bringing a facility to the city include generating revenue and fulfilling a need for the growing arts community. Bond committee member Tammy Meinershagen said performers and audiences are going to other cities because of Frisco's lack of accommodations for the arts.

"How can we make Frisco have more options, and how can we make people stay in Frisco for these options?" she said. "They are leaving Frisco. Dollars are leaving Frisco. Talent is leaving Frisco."

The Black Box Theater, Frisco's main performance area inside the Frisco Discovery Center, currently seats 120 people in its 2,300 square feet. Other nearby cities, including Allen and Richardson, can hold up to 1,500 people in their performing arts centers, according to the bond committee presentation.

Meinershagen said a feasibility study would determine how many seats a Frisco arts center would need, but she knows the current options in the city, including the Black Box Theater, are not enough.

"We have to do something," she said. "That's really the point of the presentation. We want to see a feasibility study done to know exactly what we need. But, for sure we have outgrown the Box."

Frisco's 2000 Millennium Plan and 2006 Comprehensive Plan both identify constructing an arts facility as a goal for the city. Yet, that is the only unachieved objective in both plans, Meinershagen said.

Interest for a city arts venue has rekindled with the dissolution of the Arts Center of North Texas, Meinershagen said. Frisco voters approved allocating $19 million in bonds in 2002 to construct a regional arts facility in partnership with Allen and Plano. In 2011, Frisco voters declined issuing the remaining $16 million for the project. The project officially dissolved in a court-approved agreement on Dec. 3.

Still, interest remains for a venue located in the city rather than a regional facility in Allen, Meinershagen said.

"2011 voters are different from 2014 voters," she said pointing out that voters recently approved an alcohol sales ordinance that was once overturned in 2008. "We have to put it to the public and see what the public has to say about it."

In 2006, $5 million in bonds was allocated for constructing a science and performing arts facility, and $1 million went toward the Frisco Discovery Center. Meinershagen said the remaining $4 million could go toward a new performing arts center.

Brad Sharp, Frisco Association for the Arts president, said the city could explore a public-private partnership to fund an arts center in addition to the $20 million in bonds and the remaining bonds from 2006.

"If you look at how the city has done things in the past, we really love partnerships," he said referencing the public-private partnership between the city, Dallas Cowboys and FISD for a multiuse development and events facility.

Sharp said Frisco ISD and Collin College administrators have also expressed interest in having an arts facility in the city.

Meinershagen said the city couldn't wait until the next bond election after 2015 to vote on an arts center.

"We really need to have something for the arts in Frisco for it to thrive and for it to actually even survive," she said. "Honestly, we can't really afford not to have it we have to do something."

The committee will meet again in January to prepare its final recommendations for the city council.


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