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Future Of South Coast Performing Arts Complex Cloudy; Grammy Winning Rapper Steps Up To Help

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Grammy award winning rapper/singer Anderson.Paak, who grew up in Oxnard, visits the Oxnard Performing Arts Center to support efforts to keep its doors open. Facing million in budget cuts, the City of Oxnard decided it has to become self-sustaining.

It's a busy morning at Oxnard’s Performing Arts Center, and some kids are working on their dance steps. They look a little nervous, because rap music star Anderson.Paak is watching them, shooting video as he dances along, and encourages them. The Performing Arts Center has hosted everything from symphony concerts to student productions for more than a half century. But now, it’s future is a big question mark.

The financially strapped City of Oxnard has made a number of cuts. It closed the Carnegie Art Museum, and earlier this year moved to close the Performing Arts Center. The City Council had to cut millions from its budget, and decided with money tight, it could no longer subsidize the arts institutions. They had to become self-sufficient.

In the case of the Performing Arts Center, the city backed off slightly and agreed to provide six months more funding so events scheduled through the end of the year could take place.

The city opened the door to proposals for companies or groups to take over management of the Center, which has at its heart a 1600 seat theater. The three applicants include VenueTech, a Bay Area events company, Radio Lazer, a company which owns a chain of Spanish-language radio stations, and the non-profit which is currently operating the Center. City officials tell KCLU News that VenueTech was the only applicant which met the financial and other proposal requirements. But, the company withdrew its application.

The Center isn’t an easy sell. At 1600 seats, it’s not big enough to attract some bigger acts. And, because it’s older, it doesn’t have the tech facilities of newer venues. While a number of community groups rely on it, things like a local “Nutcracker” production aren’t the big moneymakers needed to keep the doors open.  The complex hosts everything from bingo, and classes, to concerts, but bigger events are needed to pay the bills.   

City officials say they are looking for companies which could achieve that balance of moneymaking events and community access.

People who use the PAC say it’s an important community resource. That’s why Grammy winning rapper and singer Paak, who grew up in Oxnard, has stepped up to help. Paak has his own community foundation focused on kids, and he’d like to make the PAC its home base. During a visit and tour this week,  he said the community needs to look at saving the PAC as a long term investment in our kids.

But, short term, there are lots of questions. City officials say with the one qualifying applicant pulling out, and other two applicants failing to meet their guidelines for managing the facility, they are looking for other possible vendors. The city’s financial support is still set to end at the end of this month.

While there are lots of question about the PAC’s future, everyone agrees on one thing. It is an important community resource worthy of being saved. The question is how.