Fundraising

Report finds ‘very strong’ support for performing arts center fundraising in Fargo

Laura McDonald of Benefactor Group and her team interviewed 36 key individuals who would likely provide a bulk of the private funding. She said they also held two focus groups for more input on the feasibility of a campaign.

The commissioners agreed to examine and digest the study further and then discuss the next steps at an upcoming meeting.

McDonald told commissioners on Tuesday night, June 1, that in today’s economy, the necessary major philanthropic gifts are concentrated at the top.

She said the top 10 contributions would likely determine if the city could reach the goal of $25 million to $40 million in private donations. The rest of funds for the estimated $60 million to $70 million center would likely have to come from public sources, possibly in a citywide referendum.

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McDonald said an organization or individual interested in naming rights could provide that added boost to the $40 million range.

The center has been a topic of conversation for years, with a feasibility study conducted in 2015 that was updated in 2019.

The Fargo Civic Center, seen here in 2015, is a task force's preferred site for a new performing arts venue in downtown Fargo. Forum file photo

The Fargo Civic Center, seen here in 2015, is a task force’s preferred site for a new performing arts venue in downtown Fargo. Forum file photo

The study has shown support for a 2,500-seat center.

Commissioner Dave Piepkorn said it’s “absolutely necessary” that the facility be built in Fargo to attract the workforce. He also said it could have a big economic impact on the city.

“If you want people to come here, you have to have these things,” he said.

Commissioner Tony Gehrig brought up the Bluestem Amphitheater in Moorhead and asked what impact another performing arts venue would have with that being only a few miles away.

McDonald responded that younger generations are seeking “a variety of options and opportunities” for entertainment when they decide where to live.

She was aware of Bluestem and had heard “great things,” but she said it’s only available seasonally and the new venue would “fill a niche not currently filled.”

Bonnie Raitt was such a hit when she made her debut at Bluestem Center for the Arts in Moorhead in 2014 (pictured here) that she came back for  another show in 2017. Forum file photo

Bonnie Raitt was such a hit when she made her debut at Bluestem Center for the Arts in Moorhead in 2014 (pictured here) that she came back for another show in 2017. Forum file photo

Gehrig also asked about the cost of the construction and operations.

Assistant City Administrator Mike Redlinger, who has worked on the studies and project, said they would likely look at efficiencies and would need to come up with a design before any final figures can be determined.

He suggested at a future meeting that the commission decide if they want to proceed with the fundraising campaign, which could take up to two years, and also simultaneously hire an architect to come up with a more detailed design.

Commissioner John Strand wondered what the future will be for performing arts venues in the wake of the pandemic.

McDonald said she “didn’t sense any anxiety” from the potential donors she visited with about their desire or the need for the facility.

In a survey of Fargo stakeholders, she said 89% somewhat or strongly supported the idea that such a center would take the community in the “right direction.” She also said 85% would be somewhat or likely to contribute to the fundraising campaign.