When the Gallo Center for the Arts opened in 2007, it was with much fanfare, but also a sizable debt of $14 million.
But that's so $12 million ago.
Today, about to close an 11th season that could notch another recording-breaking year in ticket sales, the downtown Modesto performing arts venue has slashed that debt to less than $2 million.
That comes as the center also unveils its 2018-19 season, filled with big stars and a variety of genres. Subscription packages went on sale to the public Friday, May 25, with individual tickets on sale June 18. Tickets are available at www.galloarts.org.
Among the big names are comedian Patton Oswalt, who will perform on Aug. 11, Christian star CeCe Winans (Feb. 8), the return of "Dog Whisperer" Cesar Millan (Aug. 17), the Beach Boys (Sept. 17), Latin group Cafe Tacvba (Sept. 1), pop music's 98 Degrees (Nov. 15), the return of famed violinist Itzhak Perlman (Jan. 12), powerhouse Celtic Thunder (Nov. 11) and the official season opener, famed composer Burt Bacharach (Sept. 22).
"I think this is our best season ever in terms of variety," Chief Executive Officer Lynn Dickerson said of the 2018-19 shows.
"The depth of talent is as strong as it's ever been," added Marketing Director Doug Hosner.
The award-winning and prolific Bacharach wrote some of the 20th Century's most recognizable songs from radio and film, including "Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head," "Alfie," "Do You Know the Way to San Jose," "Walk on By" and "What the World Needs Now is Love."
Dickerson said Bacharach's show features storytelling about his multi-year career and his work with some of music's biggest stars, along with a group of singers also onstage.
Comedian Oswalt is among a long list of popular funny folk coming for the new season, including Bill Engvall (Nov. 3), Henry Cho (Nov. 16) and Anita Renfroe (Jan. 24).
Classic rock and pop also are on the bill, including a Christmas show with 98 Degrees, Ronnie Spector & the Ronettes (Oct. 20), Boz Skaggs (Sept. 23), Toto (Aug. 5) and Stray Cats alum Lee Rocker (June 8, 2019),
Broadway touring shows also will light up the stage, including "The Wizard of Oz" (Jan. 22-23), "Monty Python's Spamalot" (March 12-13) and "Something Rotten" (April 8-9). Also touring will be "The Choir of Man" (Feb. 16), a show Dickerson believes will be a huge hit with those who see it. This marks that show's first U.S. tour after gaining acclaim internationally.
The region's love for country music will be recognized with shows by established favorites Clay Walker (Sept. 12), Tracy Byrd (Feb. 6) and Rodney Crowell Trio (Oct. 3), as well as up-and-comers The Swon Brothers (Aug. 18).
Spoken word shows include an evening with Priscilla Presley (Jan. 11), who will talk in an interview format about her life with Elvis, and a foray into science with two National Geographic Live presentations. Magical evenings are promised from The Illusionists (March 31), and The Clairvoyants (Feb. 27), among others.
The Gallo Center continues its commitment to featuring Latin entertainment and Dickerson expects Cafe Tacvba to be a huge hit. The alt-rock group is a "big deal" with the younger demographic, she said.
Grammy Award-winning singer Winans leads a Christian list of acts that also includes the Soweto Gospel Choir (Oct. 10) and Steven Curtis Chapman (Sept. 13).
The upcoming season unofficially begins on July 6 with singer Rita Coolidge, as the current season continues to bow out with a spate of big shows including a sellout for Yanni and a strong-selling Broadway tour of "Jersey Boys."
That strong closing is what Dickerson and Hosner say could notch another record-breaking box office year. As of May 10, the center had $5.332 million in ticket sales, second only to the 2015-16 season at $5.475 million.
They've worked hard to get that original $14 million bill down, paying $5 million last year alone, Dickerson said. "We've just been plugging away at that, little by little, so that's a huge thing."
Once the debt is paid off the nonprofit center still will have to raise about $1.5 million annually to keep the doors open and in the black. "But," Dickerson said, "we won't have that debt over our head."