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Gallo backers offer $1.5 million grant for theater

The biggest donors to the Gallo Center for the Arts are offering an additional $1.5 million challenge grant to help bring it out of the red.

E.&J. Gallo Winery has pledged $1 million and John and June Rogers have pledged $500,000.

They are giving half that amount this season, with the remainder to be paid once other donors from the community, businesses and foundations match their contribution. Lynn Dickerson, the Gallo Center’s chief executive officer, said she hopes that will happen by the end of 2011.

The downtown Modesto venue has had an operating deficit in its roughly $8 million annual budget since it opened in September 2007. It lost $2.8 million its first season and $2.2 million in its second. It’s projected to spend $1.6 million more than it earns this season.

"Bridging the operating gap is what these new dollars will be used for," Dickerson said. "It will take a combination of tighter expense controls already under way and more revenue ... to show results."

For more on the story, read Wednesday's Bee.