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Union Tribune (2014-10-24) Tony Ambrose

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More Info: Church State Separation, El Cajon City Council, Rock Church Ecpac Takeover, Save ECPAC

The East County Performing Arts Center (ECPAC), which is owned and operated by the city of El Cajon and located within the downtown district, closed its doors almost five years ago. Its closing was caused by one reason — El Cajon taxpayers were being required to subsidize the operation of the facility by $300,000 or more every year and this fiscal burden on our residents could simply no longer be sustained, particularly in the midst of a devastating recession.

A few years ago a plan was proposed to the El Cajon City Council to demolish ECPAC and replace it with a much desired four-star hotel. The council rejected this proposal and instead made a decision to pursue two very challenging goals: 1) find a different site for the hotel and 2) renovate and reopen ECPAC, at the same time.

There were many naysayers in the community at the time who argued that this ambitious plan would never be achieved. Yet, barely two years later, the City Council has approved an outstanding Marriott Courtyard Hotel for the city’s downtown on a new site and is now considering a plan to renovate and save ECPAC.

The City Council has long been interested in seeking out a major partner or tenant to help financially stabilize the operation of the facility, in order to ensure its future success. Such a partnership between the city and the Grossmont-Cuyamaca Community College District is how the Performing Arts Center was established and operated for the first two decades of its existence, until 1995.

A new opportunity has now presented itself to the city for consideration. Earlier this year, the Rock Church made a proposal to the city to become a partial tenant in ECPAC. The proposal assists the city in financially stabilizing ECPAC so it can reopen in its traditional role as a performing arts and event center for the entire community.

The proposal consists of the following points:

• The city of El Cajon will retain full management authority.

• The Rock Church will rent the facility 132 days per year, including Sundays and Tuesdays.

• The facility will be available for communitywide performing arts uses during weeknights, except Tuesdays, and 75 percent of all Fridays and Saturdays throughout the year.

• The Rock Church will also lease an adjacent parcel of land to construct a two-story, 20,000-square-foot building for office/classroom/meeting space entirely at their own expense. This new building will include a quality rooftop event space, catering kitchen and VIP/reception room for city use at no cost.

• The tenant will pay the city over $1 million during the next four years for these leases.

• After the long term lease of the new office building is completed, the building will be granted to the city at no cost.

Some have suggested that because the proposed tenant is a church, the city should not consider this proposal. This is a ridiculous argument, as churches of all types rent publicly owned facilities, such as school auditoriums, all the time. In fact, ECPAC has been rented on many occasions by various churches in the past. This practice is fully legal and has substantial precedence. From the city’s standpoint, the Rock Church’s proposal represents a business and financial proposal, just like any other entity.

This proposal should be solely evaluated on the basis of whether or not it is a good business deal for El Cajon and whether it will have a positive impact on the long-term sustainability of the Performing Arts Center. It would be foolish for the City Council to not seriously consider such an innovative and positive proposal that could provide many benefits to this community.

The proposed plan accomplishes several positive goals for El Cajon:

1. It will provide a stable source of income for the operation and maintenance of the Performing Arts Center.

2. It will bring thousands of new people into downtown El Cajon every week, many of whom will utilize local dinning and shopping opportunities, thus supporting the local business community.

3. It will create a new and unique roof top event facility for community use at no cost to the city.

4. It will facilitate the reopening of the Performing Arts Center for entertainment, music and community events for the benefit of all of El Cajon’s residents and visitors.

The City Council will be considering this proposal in the near future. This proposed plan may be the key to sustain the theater for future generations.

Ambrose is a member of the El Cajon City Council.



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Publisher Union Tribune
Author Tony Ambrose
Pub Date 2014-10-24
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Note See also CON point of view by Ray Lutz: M 1513
Keywords Church State Separation, El Cajon City Council, Rock Church Ecpac Takeover, Save ECPAC
Media Type Linked Article, Article
Media Group News, Op Ed
Curator Rating Plain
Author Name Sortable
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Topic revision: r1 - 24 Oct 2014, RaymondLutz
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