Central Valley

$1.5M gift promised to Gallo Center

The biggest donors to the Gallo Center for the Arts are offering an additional $1.5 million challenge grant to help bring it out of the red.

E.&J. Gallo Winery has pledged $1 million and John and June Rogers have pledged $500,000, it was announced Tuesday.

They are giving half that amount this season, with the remainder to be paid once other donors from the community, businesses and foundations match their contribution. Lynn Dickerson, the Gallo Center's chief executive officer, said she hopes that will happen by the end of 2011.

The downtown Modesto venue has had an operating deficit in its roughly $8 million annual budget since it opened in September 2007. It lost $2.8 million its first season and $2.2 million in its second. It is projected to spend $1.6 million more than it earns this season.

"Bridging the operating gap is what these new dollars will be used for," Dickerson said. "It will take a combination of tighter expense controls already under way and more revenue ... to show results."

Dickerson said the grant also will offset "the dramatic decline" in interest earnings of the center's $15 million endowment fund. That income was intended to help make up for expected revenue shortfalls.

Joseph E. Gallo, chief executive officer of the winery, said in a statement that he was pleased to help. "The center has become such a valuable resource for the community, and we want to do our part to support this world-class performance facility," he said.

Gallo Center Board President Marie Gallo, who is married to Bob Gallo, son of winery co-founder Julio, could not be reached for comment Tuesday. Neither could the Rogerses.

The Gallo family contributed $10 million toward the endowment through the Ernest and Julio Gallo foundations with the promise of naming rights for the venue.

The Mary Stuart Rogers Foundation, named after John Rogers' mother, contributed $5 million toward the endowment, getting naming rights to the larger of the center's two theaters.

The Gallo Center for the Arts is owned by Stanislaus County, which contributed $15 million toward its $40 million construction cost. The city of Modesto gave about $1 million and the state contributed $1 million through a grant.

The Central Valley Center for the Arts, the nonprofit that oversees the center, paid for the rest of the construction. That nonprofit has $13 million in construction bonds to pay off.

Bee arts writer Lisa Millegan can be reached at lmillegan@modbee.com or 578-2313.