Northwest NEWS

June 15, 1998


Northshore may buy land for performing arts center

   by Andrew Walgamott
   Staff reporter

   BOTHELL--By early next century, Northshore residents may be enjoying plays, symphonies and the ballet at a performing arts center in Bothell. Last week, the Northshore School District Board of Directors began considering the purchase of a 7.7-acre site on Beardslee Boulevard for what could become the Eastside's largest performance hall. Nine people own the land, estimated to be worth $2.6 million. The site is adjacent to the future University of Washington/Cascadia Community College campus. The center would be primarily used by Northshore students, but could also offer a stage for the colleges and area symphonies.
   "This would be large enough to bring the Seattle Symphony," says Neil Larson, president of the Northshore Performing Arts Center Foundation. His architects have envisioned a 1,200 seat main theater with a 350-seat smaller stage, a 40-person orchestra pit and parking for 650 cars.
   The school district and foundation may team on the project and are currently hammering out an arrangement that would determine who buys, operates and maintains the facility. Larson said the foundation has already raised $100,000. A financial feasibility study is expected to come out at the end of June.
   Larson said the idea for a performing arts center grew out of an experience he had at a Leota Junior High jazz concert in 1992. His son's band was playing one winter night in a packed room. Not all of the parents could fit inside; some were outside in the cold air hoping to catch the music.
   The new hall would have at least twice the capacity of Kirkland's new arts center, Larson says, and would be larger than the district's largest theater, Woodinville High School's 650-seat auditorium. Pamela Steele, Northshore communications director, said a performing arts center would showcase the talent and skills of local students. "To have to perform in less than accoustically sound surroundings sells the students and community short," Steele said. "You don't hear the richness of the music or the nuances of the actors' voices if the accoustics are poor."
   Larson estimates it will cost $25 million to build, and said money could come from three sources; a publicly voted on bond, and corporate and individual donations. Larson hopes to partner with the cities of Woodinville, Bothell and Kenmore. "They'd be prime potential users of the facility," Larson said. "It's going to take a lot of support to pull that kind of money together."
   But don't go out and buy your tuxedo for opening night quite yet. "At this point, it's a long way out. If Northshore buys the land, our study says it's feasible and the public supports it, we could have our first performance by December, 2001," Larson said. He said that was if everything was fast-tracked though and not likely to happen.
   The board could act June 25 to authorize staff to begin negotiations with the property owners. Larson's wife, Kirby, sits on the board, but was absent from last week's meeting. If a performance hall isn't built, the district could use the land for a support facility, or sell it to raise money for other needs.