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Irvine Co. In $500,000 Theater Challenge

September 29, 1987|HERMAN WONG | Times Staff Writer

The Irvine Co. has offered a $500,000 challenge grant to raise private money to build the 750-seat Irvine City Theatre on the UC Irvine campus, company officials said Monday.

The offer was announced at the Irvine City Theatre Operating Co.'s annual meeting at the UCI Alumni House as the start of a bid to raise an additional $2.5 million--all in private donations.

Overall construction is budgeted at $12 million for the theater, which will be on a 2 1/2-acre Gateway plaza site donated by the university. The city has already allocated $9.5 million in municipal-bond money toward construction.

Construction is expected to take 18-24 months, beginning in early 1988, theater administrators said Monday.

According to Irvine Co. Vice Chairman Thomas H. Nielsen, the $500,000 grant is being made on a 2-to-1 matching basis. An additional $1 million needs to be raised by theater backers from other private sources.

"We are pleased to initiate this important campaign, one that will add so much to the cultural diversity of not only the community, but the university as well," said Nielsen, who is also chairman of the theater project's endowment trustees panel.

A fund-raising study by Gary Phillips & Associates of Los Angeles has confirmed that such community support for the theater exists, said Douglas Rankin, general manager of the Irvine City Theatre Operating Co.

But Rankin said the Phillips report also pointed out that the Irvine project has an identity problem.

"In audience marketing and raising funds for our theater, we have to make clear that our programs are distinctly separate from those of the larger, existing complexes: the (Orange County) Performing Arts Center and the South Coast Repertory Theatre in Costa Mesa," he said.

The two-level, proscenium-styled Irvine City Theatre is being planned as a venue for "moderate-scaled" performing arts and lecture presentations by community and campus groups, Rankin said. Among the attractions being discussed are the Irvine Symphony, Irvine Community Theater, Ballet Pacifica, South Coast Symphony and South Coast Repertory's youth groups.

Rankin said the theater's presentations would present no conflict with cultural arts activities at the 5,000-seat Bren Events Center on the campus.

The theater's first-year operating costs are estimated at $900,000, Rankin said. The theater organization hopes to establish an endowment fund to make the theater self-supporting.

Irvine Co. has played a pivotal role in the theater project since summer 1985, when the company announced giving $100,000 toward initial operational costs. Richard Sim, head of the company's office and industrial developments, is chairman of the theater's board of directors.

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