COSTA MESA — As early as 1980, six years before the Orange County Performing Arts Center opened, planners envisioned it as comprising more than one hall.
New York, San Francisco and Washington D.C. had places that could accommodate a symphonic concert and dance performance on the same night. Why not O.C.?
Holding fast to the dream, center officials were saying by the late ’80s that a second theater could be built by now. But as the center’s 10th anniversary looms, nobody, not even founding chairman Henry T. Segerstrom, is saying anything concrete about a revised date for groundbreaking, let alone completion.
During a recent interview, the multimillionaire property owner and developer, whose family gave the land on which the center stands, reiterated the need and intent to expand but said only that he would be “surprised if there wasn’t progress made” in the next five years.
Still, Segerstrom outlined–in the most specific terms he has used–the sorts of issues he feels must be resolved before the first expansion fund-raiser can be organized.
Question: Center trustees have said the decision to expand must be a collaborative one, involving such local organizations as Pacific Symphony, Opera Pacific and the Philharmonic Society of Orange County. What sort of input is needed from these groups?
Answer: The Pacific Symphony, for instance, has to resolve many issues. Is it going to continue to be a pickup [part-time] orchestra, or is it going to be a contract [full-time] orchestra? If [it becomes full-time], it’s going to need facilities for the majority of the year. That one question makes a huge difference in utilization of facilities.
Q: Meaning that trustees need to know, among other things, whether they’ll be able to rely, programmatically and financially, on Pacific Symphony booking the hall for a good chunk of the year?
A: That’s right. . . . And if the Pacific Symphony could have all of its needs satisfied with a [second] hall, then automatically Opera Pacific has opportunities [to stage more productions in the existing Segerstrom Hall].
How much does it want to grow?
Q: The Segerstrom family owns the empty lot next to the center, which has been considered for new facilities. Will the family donate that land for expansion?
A: The Segerstrom family has been very supportive of the Orange County Performing Arts Center, but there has been no commitment.
Q: Are you saying the family will sit back and let someone else donate land elsewhere?
A: I think it’s always been the opinion of the board and of all those associated with the center that the Orange County Performing Arts Center should be the site of whatever new facilities are built.
Q: Did you, as sources say, meet with an architect to discuss construction of a joint facility that would combine a second hall with an expanded Orange County Museum of Art?
A: Well, when you say an architect, or the architect, we do our own evaluations of [possibilities for] our own property . . . but there’s been nothing formal.
Q: So there has been informal discussion.
A: Well, as informal as this discussion. . . . I think one has to think about where Orange County would like to be 25 years from now, and I think that’s a reasonable thought process.
Q: What’s a reasonable thought process, the creation of a double-decker museum-concert hall?
A: Whatever happens culturally in Orange County will be the result of a collective consensus of everyone who lives in this community. I think the best any of us can do is to think just like I’m thinking, conceptually. What are great solutions? Beyond that, we’ll just have to see.