From elevators to loading docks, Gallo Center offers naming rights

The Gallo Center for the Arts is looking for big-dollar donors who want to leave their mark on the just-finished building.

It's offering naming rights to a mix of features inside the $40 million theaters as part of a fund-raising campaign targeted at its first week of ticket buyers.

Eyes of performers and technicians likely will be the only ones settling on some of the items.

Take a loading dock for $50,000.

Sponsor a 7-foot grand piano for $75,000.

How about an elevator for $75,000?

But prime real estate remains, namely the center's outdoor plaza. Its sponsorship carries an asking price of $1 million.

Naming rights to most of the items will remain open until someone sponsors them. A Dec. 31 deadline looms to carve a spot into the center's Founders Wall, which recognizes contributors of $25,000 or more.

Katie Mendez, the center's senior associate of development, said a few people have contacted her about raising the amount of their previous commitments to join the families and businesses on that wall.

"We're in a different time now," she said. "Before, it was only construction; and now,the center is a reality. People are seeing the benefit of the center for the community."

Center executives mailed a letter describing the founders campaign to people who bought seats for September performances, by artists such as Tony Bennett, Los Tigres Del Norte and Rosanne Cash.

It details the center's fund-raising challenges, which include collecting more than $800,000 a year to pay down bonds the nonprofit Central Valley Center for the Arts took out for its share of the building's construction.

The center has a $15 million operating endowment. It also benefited from $15 million from Stanislaus County, which owns the building.

The rest of the money comes from the nonprofit Center for the Arts, which has pulled together more than $26 million to pay for construction and its financing costs. Collectively, the nonprofit says, the building's cost clocks in at $63 million, a sum that does not include the county's own bond financing charges of about $7.7 million.

Naming rights already represent a popular incentive for donors -- even on a smaller scale than donations made by the Gallo, Foster and Rogers families.

Each of the archways at the center's entrance has a sponsor. A plaque on one of those windows recognizes a contribution from City Councilman Garrad Marsh and his wife, Dallas Kadry.

Kaiser Permanente ponied up money to support a green room behind the Rogers Theater.

Dressing rooms have their own sponsors, though a few more are up for grabs at $50,000 each.

Hundreds of golden nameplates glimmer along rows of seats in the theaters. They cost $5,000 or $2,500, depending on the location.

"Pretty much anything we can name, we'd like to name," said John Shirley, the center's events coordinator.

Meanwhile, the center disclosed attendance figures Tuesday showing more than 25,000 people attended shows in its first month. Top sellers included Bennett, Kris Kristofferson and the Modesto Community Concert Series.

Bee staff writer Lisa Millegan contributed to this report.

Bee staff writer Adam Ashton can be reached at aashton@modbee.com or 578-2366.