Schaumburg mulls how much is too much for a performing arts center
Several Schaumburg trustees this week strongly criticized paying a consultant's recommended $105 million for a 2,800-seat performing arts center next to the village's convention center but expressed a greater degree of comfort with an $80 million price tag.
For residents more accustomed to the costs of running a household than a village, the trustees attempted to explain the practical difference between those two large figures Wednesday.
The dilemma is really not much different from that experienced by the average family considering the purchase of a house or car, Trustee Tom Dailly said.
"You know you can afford X amount of dollars, but if you go above that you know you have to give up other things," Dailly explained. "I think it comes down to how much funding -- bonding -- the village can take on."
Dailly believes $60 million to $80 million to be Schaumburg's comfortable price range.
However, representatives of the Minneapolis-based consulting firm HGA this week reported that only a $105 million center with 2,800 seats could be assured success in Schaumburg, while an $80 million facility with only 2,000 seats would not meet market demand or the interest of a competitive operating firm.
Dailly said he's skeptical of that finding, as many of Chicago's downtown theaters thrive with 2,300 to 2,500 seats.
Trustees have directed Village Manager Brian Townsend to research a way of building a viable center for less than HGA suggested.
Trustee George Dunham said he would prefer the larger venue but is struggling to understand how 800 more seats translates to an additional $25 million.
For Trustee Marge Connelly, the first concern is figuring out where the village would get either amount of money and whether a partnership is possible.
"I am not as concerned about whether it's $100 million or $80 million but that it can be successful and not subsidized by the village on an ongoing basis," she said.
Trustee Frank Kozak said he's not willing to compromise any other village services by exceeding a comfortable price range for a performing arts center.
"If we can't afford it, we have no business being in it," Kozak said.
But Dailly believes the practical benefit a performing arts center could bring the village's economy is in the role it would play in developing a planned entertainment district just north along Meacham Road.
"I look at this theater as being the foundation of that whole entertainment district," he said. "Having this as an anchor for that area could make a big difference."
The village has already saved up $15 million for the possibility of building the performing arts center, having first considered it for simultaneous construction with the convention center and adjoining Renaissance Hotel more than a decade ago. Financial concerns were then, too, the reason for delay.
Peter Pacione, a longtime resident who attended Tuesday's committee meeting, said he opposed the project and suggested only a referendum could demonstrate public support for it.
"We have bigger issues to address than the dreams of the board," Pacione said.