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The tour of the Warnors Center for the Performing Arts (Warnors Center) was truly inspiring. Many thanks to Ms. Sally Caglia and Mr. Dan Fitzpatrick for taking the time to personally show – and discuss – the complexity of maintaining (and restoring) this community treasure with our class.
The commitment that it takes to maintain the theatre and related facilities (i.e. Frank’s Place, Starlight Room, various shops) exceeds what most people are willing to give – to most anything. It must literally consume all of the resources (time and money) available to the Board and staff, just to hold it all together. $50,000-$80,000 monthly just in operational costs, including liability, lights, water/sewage, staff, etc. Why this commitment? I am sure that it has to do with the smell and the “feel” of a piece of America – and a “moment in history” – that is slowly fading from the heart of our society (sadly). It is a place where the architecture itself is the manifestation of an artist’s dream (Priteca). Art pieces, many which have traveled the world, have found home in the theatre, as well as many of the significant photos of “Pop” Laval. This legendary theatre built in the year before the country’s worst depression (1928) holds a mystique within its walls that offers inspiration to future generations.
Aside from classic beauty, the Warnors Center for the Performing Arts offers an opportunity for revitalization in the heart of downtown Fresno. Performers can rent the theatre (capacity: 2,000) for concerts/shows, which adds to Warnors Center’s bottom line. Plus, the adjoining Frank’s Place, Starlight Room, and the mezzanine inside the theatre can also be secured for parties, weddings, etc. Mostly, the organization benefits in the way of rental fees, direct ticket sales, and from splits in concessions. It was noted that beer concessions is a particularly good moneymaker.
I was really impressed with the new shops, “Twee” and “Misc,” which are both located directly adjacent to the entrance of the theatre. These are very “hip” shops, which cater to a clientele seeking distinction from the crowd. Twee had an assortment of really cool silk ties with unique designs, which would be good for gifts. Misc had hand-made jewelry and a line of reasonably priced vintage clothing.
Warnors Center for the Performing Arts, like many organizations, suffers from an “aging” support-base. Ms. Sally emphasized their desire to include younger members on the Board in order to offer “fresh perspective.” An expanded presence on Facebook could only help their efforts to promote Warnors Center offerings. Also, Mr. Fitzpatrick mentioned that the organization is attempting to partner with Fresno State in order to gain a marketing intern. There is a desire to develop a partnership with area property owners/managers in order to effectively compete for convention business. The neighborhood would have a unique conference “walking experience” for organizations that are looking for alternatives to the norm of a high volume, void of character, convention center experiences. One could imagine a company like Google or Twitter hosting a conference for several hundred professionals, which could include a “welcome” gathering in the Warnors Center (theatre) atrium, break out sessions throughout the theatre and in other nearby locations, like Wilson’s Theatre and/or Cornerstone Conference Center, and dining accommodation at Frank’s Place, the Starlight Room, and/or the Fresno Ballroom (across the street). It certainly seems as though it might a worthy venture to put together a marketing package for that experience. It is a unique experience – and a bit “quirky,” which inspires creativity. Marketed correctly, Fresno would become an attractive nearby training location for our “quirky” neighbors in the technology industry just 2-3 short hours drive away.
In short, Warnors Center is historic, inspiring, and here to stay. I sincerely hope that the organization is successful in recruiting new faces to the Board and generating a dynamic “out of the box” marketing plan in the near future.