Big water leak closes Modesto’s Gallo Center for the Arts

mrowland@modbee.comJune 9, 2014 

A weekend water leak has caused extensive damage to the Gallo Center for the Arts, forcing it to close on the first day of new season single-ticket sales and putting upcoming performances in jeopardy.

A tube leading into an ice machine at the second-floor concession stand malfunctioned early Sunday and poured water into the upper and lower lobby areas unabated for a full day, according to Gallo Center CEO Lynn Dickerson. The center was dark Sunday, with no performances, so the flooding was found by an employee who arrived at the center about 7 a.m. Monday.

“It just ran and ran and ran,” said Dickerson, who is out of town attending a family event in Texas this week, but has received regular updates from her staff. “The first floor’s flooded, the second floor’s flooded. Paint is coming off the walls. It’s a big, terrible mess.”

Doug Hosner, Gallo Center director of marketing and public relations, said when the leak was discovered, there was about an inch and a half of standing water across the lobby. Water had saturated the walls, carpets and baseboards.

The 1,250-seat Mary Stuart Rogers Theater and smaller 444-seat Foster Family Theater escaped major damage, Hosner said. The larger Rogers Theater saw some leakage around the edge of its ground-floor seats. The heaviest damage was borne by the ticket office, coat check and area in front of the elevators, with holes in the ceiling and paint peeling from the walls. Computers and the phone systems in those areas were also soaked.

Crews from Coit Modesto Cleaning and Restoration Services were in the center all day Monday pumping out water and inspecting the structure. Hosner said no dollar amount has been placed on the damage.

The flooding forced the shutdown of walk-in and phone ticket sales Monday, the opening day of single-ticket sales for the upcoming 2014-15 season. A makeshift box office in the front of the Gallo Center lobby will open at 10 a.m. today and phone sales will resume at that time, too. Online ticket sales have remained available.

The center, which opened to much fanfare in 2007, has become a hub of cultural activity in downtown Modesto, hosting the likes of classical maestro Itzhak Perlman, R&B hitmaker John Legend and pop operatic sensation Il Volo within the past six months. The building is owned by Stanislaus County, which leases it back to the nonprofit that operates the center.

The county contributed $15 million in land and money to the $47 million project originally. That public/private partnership continued in the cleanup and assessment of damage Monday. County Chief Operations Officer and Assistant Executive Officer Patty Hill Thomas was on site Monday, along with other officials. The county has the center insured, and she said that while the damage is substantial, she expects a prompt cleanup and restoration process.

“We’ve got all hands on this. It’s a lot of damage to our beautiful Gallo Center,” said Hill Thomas, who also served as project manager for construction of the center. “We’re going to go fast on this. We will get it fixed and it will be restored to its full glory. The Gallo Center means a lot to our community and the economy.”

Hill Thomas also did not have a preliminary estimate about how much the restoration would cost, though she said it will be “a lot.” Because the building is owned by the county, there is a chance the Board of Supervisors will discuss the situation at its meeting today and declare an emergency to help expedite aid.

“We are developing a strategic plan to get it underway,” Hill Thomas said. “All of those plates are spinning right now.”

No public events are planned until Saturday, when The Dance Academy has rented the Rogers Theater for two performances of its “Happy Birthday” production. The next center-produced event will be a lecture by “Proof of Heaven” author Dr. Eben Alexander III on June 20, followed the next day by a show from comedian Carlos Mencia.

Hosner said all upcoming performances are up in the air as the extent of the damage is investigated. Despite the halting of walk-in and phone sales, he said tickets sold briskly online Monday.

“We’re doing actually very seriously good business online,” Hosner said. “I don’t have a final total, but it compared favorably to last year. Which is one good thing at least.”

Breaking News Editor Patty Guerra contributed to this report. Bee staff writer Marijke Rowland can be reached at mrowland@modbee.com or (209) 578-2284. Follow her on Twitter @marijkerowland.

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