This rendering shows the lobby of the proposed Mercer Island Center for the Arts. Rendering courtesy of the Mercer Island Center for the Arts

Mercer Island does not need arts center | Letter

Mercer Island does not need Mercer Island Center for the Arts (MICA). We have already paid for a performing arts facility. It would appear totally unnecessary to plunk a 34,000-square-foot building into Mercerdale Park to provide a performance venue when a beautiful performance venue was built, with the expectation that it would be used by the community for community arts performances, at the Mercer Island High School.

A check of the use records for the “joint use auditorium” taxpayers built at the high school over a number of years shows that it is used for less than six performances per year by outside users and a maximum of 100 events per year by the school district. Since the theater is set up with a “fly loft,” that means you can have the theater set up for more than one event per day. That means the theater has the potential of “hosting” 730 events per year. Joint use was the taxpayer expectation when we provided $14 million to build the facility. How do I know this is reasonable use? I used to manage a high school auditorium.

It can be rented for Mercer Island youth group performances, which would include Youth Theater Northwest for $25 per hour (if at least 75 percent of the participants are Mercer Island residents), plus staff charges and equipment rental. This beautiful space is immediately available, does not require any investment of equipment nor salaried personnel, and would provide an income stream for our school district as well. According to the school district, classroom spaces for Youth Theatre Northwest drama classes can be rented for $3 an hour, plus a custodial fee.

Baron Dickey

Mercer Island