A decade after it opened, the Gallo Center for the Arts continues to see growth, success and what it hopes will be another record-setting season.
Downtown Modesto’s premiere performing arts center has its eighth consecutive season in the black this past year, while not quite surpassing last year’s record sales. Chief Executive Officer Lynn Dickerson said the 2016-2017 season’s sales should come in at or slightly below the previous year’s $5.475 million, the highest in its history.
The center has unveiled its 2017-2016 season with a host of well-known names, new stars and a few old favorites. The season-opening gala will feature former Chicago frontman and solo hitmaker Peter Cetera on Sept. 29. The season will also include renowned opera singer Renee Fleming (Jan. 28), two-time “Dancing with the Stars” champion Cheryl Burke (Oct. 19), country star and “American Idol” winner Scotty McCreery (Aug. 27), comedians Louie Anderson and Kevin Nealon on a double bill (Aug. 12) and Modesto’s own indie rock breakouts Grandaddy (Oct. 21), who will play a special homecoming show in honor of their bassist Kevin Garcia, who passed away recently.
“In this business, booking is part luck and part art,” Dickerson said. “I think it’s an exciting season.”
This year’s lineup also features a strong slate of touring Broadway shows coming to the region for the first time, including “Motown the Musical” (Jan. 2-4), “Kinky Boots” (Jan. 24-25) and “Jersey Boys” (June 22-24, 2018). Other acts making their first stop at the Gallo Center will include The Beach Boys (Feb. 28), Mexican superstar Guadalupe Pineda (Sept 2) and British pop maven Petula Clark (Nov. 12).
Some famous faces will also return to the center, including six-time Tony winner Audra McDonald (May 13), country great Lorrie Morgan (Oct. 28), crooner Paul Anka (Oct. 8) and half of Simon & Garfunkel, Art Garfunkel (April 17).
“Yes, there are some repeats, but I tell people we’re 10 years old now and it’s hard to find 140 shows that are all brand new,” Dickerson said. Tickets to the general public go on sale Thursday for subscription packages and June 19 for individual performances.
Dickerson said she has high expectations for the new season. The last two seasons have sold more than 77 percent of the house seats available. But Dickerson is perhaps most pleased with the center’s progress on paying off its debt. When it opened in September 2007, the Gallo Center had about $14 million in bond debt. Now, 10 years later, the center has paid more than half of that off and has $5.9 million in debt. The project cost $46 million to complete.
“It is a huge, huge accomplishment if you consider that a lot of this time was in the depth of the Great Recession,” Dickerson said.
The center has been able to pay off the debt thanks to its ticket sales as well as continued donor contributions. Gallo Center Board Chairman Doug Vilas credits the community’s work and generosity with its successes.
“Building the center was a big leap of faith, with many people wondering if Modesto could support a world-class performing arts center,” he said in a statement. “Ten years later, many sold-out audiences give us the answer. I thank all our devoted volunteers and donors who enabled us to successfully pay down the mortgage incurred to build our nonprofit Gallo Center for the Arts.”
Dickerson said the center could be able to pay off the entire debt in the next five years.