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Performing arts center waiting in wings


San Marcos Daily Record (20/02/2005)


The proposed performing arts center would be located near downtown.
Texas State University leaders envision a sprawling performing arts center situated between campus and downtown as a physical link with the city they share.

The 125,000 square feet complex is still in the conceptual stage of planning but could include a 2,000-seat performance auditorium and two smaller venues: a 250-seat recital hall and a 350-seat theatre.

A second version adds two dance studios, a band hall, practice rooms and administrative and faculty offices for the university's School of Music and theatre/dance department.

They've asked the Legislature to sell $50 million in tuition revenue bonds to pay for it.

"The programs at Texas State are excellent and deserve the type of facilities we're trying to fund with these tuition revenue bonds," said State Rep. Patrick M. Rose, who filed legislation for the funding last week.

He said it's too early to know if funding will be approved - along with about $133 million in other Texas State discretionary funding requests - but that "it is one of my top priorities."

A preliminary version of the university's master plan places the building on University Drive, near the distinctive round Theatre Center. The building and its grounds would sit in the present location of Falls and Sterry halls. Both the residence halls house about 350 students.

The grounds also include the 1896 Victorian clapboard Alumni House, where Lyndon B. Johnson is said to have eaten his meals while a student at what was then called Southwest Texas State Teachers College. The historic house won't be touched.

The university administrator shepherding the master plan process said the proposed location - two blocks from the courthouse square - is intended to serve the community as well as the university.

"We're looking at placing the performing arts center where it can be utilized by the entire San Marcos community," Nancy Nusbaum, assistant vice president for finance and support services, said. "We think it will improve the connection between the university and the city."

The project also poses the opportunity for a rare university-city joint project: a related parking garage that would serve the new facility and downtown merchants. Nusbaum said size and cost projections aren't available for that element of the project.

Mayor Susan Narvaiz said the council is in the process of scheduling a briefing on the project.

"The council supports the master planning process and especially any plans that help improve the physical transition between campus and downtown," Narvaiz said. As for the garage, she said, "We always want to consider ways to relieve on-street parking."

The facility is needed to replace a number of aging and undersized performance venues on campus, Theatre/Dance Chair Richard Sodders said. His department serves about 350 theatre or dance majors, a number limited from further growth by a lack of space.

"We absolutely have reached our limit," Dr. Sodders said. "The thinking is that it would be big enough for the San Marcos community to use for a number of events as well."