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Best bet for arts tickets? Sign up

The best way to make sure you don't miss out on tickets to events at the new Gallo Center for the Arts is to register for the organization's e-mail or mailing lists.

John Turchon, customer service director for the state-of-the-art downtown Modesto center, promises to send season brochures and notices of sales to those who sign up at or call 338-2100. So far, 8,000 names are in the database.

"People are abuzz about getting tickets for the Gallo center," said Paul Jan Zdunek, president and chief executive officer of the Modesto Symphony Orchestra, which will perform in the center. "It's a definite frenzy going on."

Under construction at 10th and I streets, the $47.75 million center has two theaters: the 1,250-seat Mary Stuart Rogers Theater and the 444-seat Foster Family Theater.

Within the next couple of weeks, the center will open a box office at a location to be announced and will begin selling season subscriptions for local groups.

Up first will be tickets for the orchestra (performing in the Rogers Theater) and Townsend Opera Players (in the Foster Theater.) In May, the box office will add subscriptions for Central West Ballet (performing in both theaters) and its own events. Individual tickets go on sale in August, with the grand opening scheduled in September.

Zdunek said symphony subscribers have been calling, concerned they will miss out on tickets. He urges them not to delay once subscriptions go on sale March 31.

"There always have been deadlines to subscribe, but people should take those as serious deadlines," he said. "Demand is going to be very high. We will do everything we can to properly supply subscribers with information so they don't miss the deadline."

The Modesto Community Concert Association, which started selling tickets last week for its programs at the Rogers Theater, expects to sell out its subscriptions by the end of the month.

After news of its ticket sales appeared in The Bee, the concert association's one phone line was busy nonstop for days, irritating customers who couldn't get through. People should have an easier time once the Gallo center box office opens; it will have six phone lines.

But when the groups' season tickets go on sale, those who never have subscribed will have to wait in line behind those who have. Turchon's staff will try to give current ticket holders seats similar to those they have at the high school theaters. For example, if a subscriber sat five rows from the stage in Modesto High School, Turchon will try to get them a ticket five rows from the front in the Gallo center.

Some will get reminder calls

Subscribers who have held tickets the longest will even get a personal reminder call if they delay reserving their seats, Turchon said. Major donors to the Gallo center will get similar treatment.

"I will help donors get tickets and will make sure they are not missing out," Turchon said.

Donors who have nameplates on the more spacious box seats will get preferences for those seats but won't have them permanently reserved for all shows, Turchon said. People other than the donors will get to use the seats from time to time throughout the year.

The Gallo center's 12 part-time ticket takers are being trained on the arts center, the four resident companies and the downtown area. They have listened to CDs by artists planning to perform at the center and recently visited 13 nearby restaurants for tastings so they can make recommendations to customers seeking a place to dine, Turchon said.

Box-office staffers are fluent in a number of languages: English, Spanish, Tagalog, Fijian, Portuguese, French and American Sign Language.

They will be the primary contacts for ticket holders for all four resident companies except the Modesto Community Concert Association. The Modesto Symphony Orchestra, Townsend Opera Players and Central West Ballet no longer will sell their own tickets.

Erika Townsend, who had helped with tickets in addition to numerous other duties for TOP, said she'll be glad to hand over the responsibility to the Gallo center.

"I'm thrilled, because tickets take a tremendous amount of time," she said.

While she knows there will be some confusion the first year as everyone gets used to the system, she expects the best from the Gallo center.

"It's out of our hands," she said. "We've got to hope that they do what we asked them to do."

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