Orange County Center May Kill Plans for 2nd Theater

Times Staff Writer

A long-planned, much-delayed 1,000-seat second theater at the Orange County Performing Arts Center may now be dead in the bean field, Center officials said for the first time at a press conference Tuesday.

“Although the board has not decided what facility additions are needed, Theater Two may have become passe,” Center Chairman Henry T. Segerstrom said.

It was the first time Center officials departed from their long-standing formal commitment to build a second theater. For years before 3,000-seat Segerstrom Hall opened in September, 1986, plans called for the additional theater to open one year later. But as construction progressed and costs were revised upward, the push for the smaller facility dwindled.

Earlier this year, Center officials announced a feasibility study to determine the need for additional facilities. At that time, they reiterated their commitment to the second theater.


But on Tuesday, Segerstrom said the Center board has changed its long-term plans after reviewing preliminary data from the study, which they declined to divulge.

“We are broadening out our perspective and investigations and our research,” Segerstrom said. “We don’t want to be limited in our planning.”

As recently as May, in response to criticism by former board chairman John Rau that they had reneged on plans for a second theater, Segerstrom and Center President Thomas R. Kendrick vowed their commitment to its construction because of anticipated programming demands by visiting and local art groups.

Other board business announced on Tuesday:


The board adopted an overall budget of about $14 million for operations in 1989.

Kendrick said the budget, a reduction of about $1.2 million from 1988, represents an effort “to stabilize and consolidate” operations during the Center’s third year.

Kendrick said he anticipates about 240 events at the Center next year, a decrease from the “fully booked” number of 260 events in 1987-88. He said the reduction would result from fewer summer performances sponsored by the Center and fewer presentations by regional groups.

The board also said it wants to increase the pool of annual supporters by 50%, to 6,000, by 1991.