Letters to the Editor

Things you might not know about the PACC | Letters

The Federal Way City Council will soon be considering whether to move ahead with a schematic design for a performing arts and conference center (PACC).

While this has been a part of the city’s Comprehensive Plan since the city incorporated, interest in promoting a PACC began earlier, in 1989, when the Federal Way Coalition of the Performing Arts organized. Included as members were representatives from all local performance groups, with the mission to promote and raise funds toward a large performance hall.

This was later the non-profit that created the campaign for funding enhancements at the Knutzen Family Theatre. But that’s another story.

There have been several years of research, three feasibility studies, tours of several Western Washington performance halls by many people interested in the project, and purchase of a site through state grants.

The concept of including conference center space was introduced a few years ago, resulting in greatly expanded potential usage. Many of our local events cannot be held in Federal Way, needing a larger facility. Touring companies cannot perform here, but now two have expressed interest in adding Federal Way’s proposed PACC as a site.

Several of our performing groups hold their major shows in Auburn’s performance hall, if they can get on the schedule. They usually have to reserve space at least a year in advance. The Auburn facility turns down at least two requests a week, from a diverse number of events: seminars, lectures, musical competitions, ethnic celebrations, travel shows, hobby shows, bridge tournaments, fundraisers and receptions. That is also true of Highline’s 800-seat performance hall.

What is the benefit to the city? At last, a signature structure in downtown that will be the identifying attraction for residents as well as for tourists — a sense of place we don’t yet have. Associated economic development could be the impetus for other developers who recognize the city is investing in itself in a positive and impressive way.

Could the performance hall be smaller, and added on to later? No. The auditorium, with acoustics and placement of seats, must be created as one unit. The additional expense of adding on at a later date wouldn’t make sense. The 700 seats would be the minimum to attract outside interest — and many local groups desire that size. Now, several perform in churches, with the disadvantages of working around the church’s schedule, plus having to repeatedly set up and take down chairs and risers.

Would the schools benefit? There would be opportunity for high schools in particular to offer classes in technical skills, especially sound and lighting. Graduates of those classes in Auburn and Highline are in great demand. The PACC would offer space for student concerts and arts competitions.

Successful performance halls we have used as models include McIntyre Hall in Mount Vernon, and Edmonds Center for the Arts. Check them out online, including their schedules. They operate in the black.

The Federal Way Coalition of the Performing Arts is eager to assist in fundraising, and has already researched many available grants.  We also know many have waited years to contribute to this campaign. There will be a variety of naming opportunities for the facility, performance hall, lobby, conference hall, meeting rooms and possibly pavers. This could result in significant amounts being raised. There are also grants available for maintenance and operation that can be pursued.

We can only begin once the schematic designs are finished. We’re ready to organize.

Joann Piquette, President, Federal Way Coalition of the Performing Arts

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