Study: Frisco arts groups turn to nearby cities for available performance space

A new feasibility study shows local arts groups would benefit from Frisco having a performing arts center in the city as local groups often leave the city for rehearsal and performance space.

Frisco City Council members said the city is ultimately waiting to find a private partner to work alongside in developing a center.

Parkhill, Smith & Cooper, a Frisco architectural and engineering firm, in conjunction with New York-based consulting firm Webb Management Services, conducted the study and presented the findings to Frisco City Council in June.

According to the study, 14 performing arts groups have 667 days of demand for performance facilities in Frisco. This demand includes 295 days for performances, 316 days for rehearsals and 56 days for other events.

“There’s not enough capacity in Frisco right now,” Parkhill, Smith & Cooper associate Michael Howard said during the work session. “… Most of what these [local arts] groups are doing is going outside of Frisco to Allen, Plano and McKinney to meet this demand that is not met with local facilities.”

Some performing arts facilities local groups go to include the Eisemann Center in Richardson and the McKinney Performing Arts Center, both of which are city-owned and -operated.

The study provided two options based on its findings. The first option is to develop a 300- to 500-seat facility for theater, music and small dance ensembles. The second option is to develop a 1,200- to 1,500-seat facility in partnership with Frisco ISD that accommodates school performances, local dance schools and dance competitions as well as some touring entertainment. This option also states the facility should include a 300- to 500-seat flexible theater for community use.

“People kind of expected the results, so it wasn’t a big shock to people,” said Tammy Meinershagen, executive director for the nonprofit Frisco Arts. “[But] they were to happy to see that the study addressed both the smaller local nonprofit needs as well as the larger ones.”

Frisco Mayor Jeff Cheney said the study was conducted to help the council decide whether to use bond dollars to build a performing arts center or to have a private partner help develop a center. The city has $15 million in bond funds set aside for an arts facility.

Council Member Shona Huffman said it would be great if a private partner was willing to work with the city to develop an arts facility, but one has not come forward with a proposal.

Developer Craig Hall has stated that he would have land available within Hall Park for a performing arts center and would work with the city to build a facility. However, no formal proposal has been submitted, and Hall’s team is reviewing the study’s results before making a decision.

According to Parkhill, Smith & Cooper, to build a 300- to 500-seat facility would cost $10 million-$20 million, and building a 1,200- to 1,500-seat facility would cost $50 million-$60 million. The cost only refers to construction, not land costs or operations.

Cheney said if no private partner came forward, the council’s preference is to use available bond funds to build a 300- to 500-seat facility to meet the current demand of community arts groups with the hope of working with a private partner to build a larger performing arts center.

“We’re all anxious to see our community groups have their needs met in the best appropriate way that is sustainable for them and for the community,” Huffman said.

No date has been set for the council to make a decision.

Editor’s note: The spouse of a Community Impact Newspaper employee is a source in this story. The employee has recused herself from involvement in this editorial coverage in an effort to maintain credibility in coverage.