Gesa, Power House Theatre deal works


Corporate sponsorships of stadiums, arenas and theaters — once unheard of — has become the norm.

Safeco Field is home to the Mariners and CenturyLink Field (formerly Qwest Field) is home to the Seahawks. The Oscars ceremony has been held at Los Angeles’ Dolby Theatre (formerly Kodak Theatre) annually since 2002.

And now, right here in Walla Walla, we have the Gesa Power House Theatre.

It has a $1 million ring to it. That’s because that’s what Gesa Credit Union is ponying up for an 11-year partnership that includes making Gesa Power House Theatre its official name.

Perhaps some cringe at venues having corporate sponsorships, some even looking at it as selling out. That’s a shortsighted view.

These venues, whether publicly or privately owned, are incredibly expensive to maintain. The new reality is owners of these commercial stadiums, arenas and theaters have to find a way to supplement their operations beyond ticket sales.

The Power House Theatre has been a wonderful addition to this community in its short existence. The expectation is it will grow over the years as more and more productions are brought in.

Again, that takes money — lots of it.

The influx of cash from Gesa comes at a pivotal time in the theater’s history, U-B reporter Vicki Hillhouse wrote Tuesday. The 368-seat theater was converted from a 120-year-old former power generating facility at 111 N. Sixth Ave. using local donations and investments from the theater’s Managing Director Harry Hosey and Power House partners Mark Anderson and Dennis Ledford.

The idea was to build a theater to accommodate the Shakespeare Walla Walla performances that were taking place at the Fort Walla Walla Amphitheater. The stage and balcony seating was inspired by Shakespeare’s Blackfriars Theatre.

The building was placed on the list of state and federal historic buildings after opening in May 2011. More construction is still needed. A new elevator is being built and indoor restrooms are needed. Plans are in the works for dressing room space, heating and cooling improvements and a new roof.

Hosey said financial options had been exhausted for the investors. the Gesa money will allow construction to continue.

The agreement with the Power House Theatre is similar to one Gesa has in Pasco for Gesa Stadium, the home of the Tri-City Dust Devils, a single-A minor league team for the Colorado Rockies.

Gesa President and Chief Executive Officer Christina Lethlean said the credit union’s aim is to support the communities in which it operates. Promoting the arts is viewed as important.

“You can’t really quantify the ways it edifies the community,” she said.

True, but it clearly does make a difference.

This deal is good for Gesa, good for the Power House Theatre and good for the community.


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