HEARTS for GivingOct 01, 2021 ● By Lisa Ferguson
What currently is an empty parking lot at HALL Park in Frisco will one day be the home of a state-of-the-art performing arts center that will welcome singers, dancers, musicians, actors and other aspiring and professional artists who will come from throughout the city, North Texas and beyond to grace its sweeping stage.
In June, a master development agreement was approved between the City of Frisco, Frisco ISD, the Frisco Economic Development and Community Development Corporations and HALL Group Founder and President Craig Hall to build the as-yet-unnamed performing arts center.
Along with a 1,250-1,500-seat main performance hall, the facility is set to include a 250-350-seat community theater, a nearly six-acre park and a parking garage.
The long-anticipated center will primarily serve as a performance venue for Frisco ISD students and fine-arts programming for 150 days of the year but will also likely host a variety of other performances possibly including Broadway-style shows and concerts headlined by best-selling musical artists among others.
“The performing arts center is an exciting opportunity for all of our students and staff. Although the facility is currently dubbed the `performing arts center,’ it is more than that to our students and staff. … It will be a place for Frisco ISD to unite as one for the benefit of our students,” Frisco ISD Superintendent Mike Waldrip said in a statement to Frisco STYLE.
Its $67 million initial price tag is covered by $43 million in Frisco ISD bond funds, $14 million in bonds from the City of Frisco and a $10 million commitment by Mr. Hall, developer of HALL Park, who also donated the land upon which the center will be situated. The design process for the performing arts center is scheduled to begin in January 2022.
However, before a single blueprint is drawn, it is hoped that an additional $100 million in private donations can be raised through December of this year. Dollars collected during this brief fundraising window, which is allowed as part of the master development agreement, will be used for myriad improvements and upgrades as well as to assist with maintenance and operation costs after the center’s doors open at a date to be determined.
That is the goal of the HEARTS Project, the private fundraising campaign of the Frisco Arts Foundation that kicked off in August. Its name was devised by Frisco City Manager George Purefoy and is an acronym for Hall, Education and the Arts.
Frisco Arts Chair Tammy Meinershagen recalls meeting with Mr. Purefoy earlier this year to discuss the fundraising campaign and “thank him for his leadership because … this type of complicated deal (for the center) can’t happen without the support of the city manager. … He said he had been thinking about names for it and came up with HEARTS. … The name is just perfect. I love that it actually came from him because it shows that he has a heart for this project.”
Mrs. Meinershagen says such fundraising campaigns typically begin after the design process for a performing arts center has commenced to provide potential donors with ideas about how their dollars may be invested, whether that is through the purchase of small items such as commemorative bricks or larger ones like the naming rights for a staircase, the lobby or even the entire building.
Due to the involvement of public dollars via the bond funds, a total budget for the center must be in place prior to the design process beginning on Jan. 1, 2022. “Whatever monies are at the table at that time are the budget for the design,” she explains.
At this point, without any designs to display, donating to the center “is really an advocacy-giving act,” she says. “It’s people who believe in this project and have a vision for it and who want to see the very best, not just for now but for the future of Frisco.”
In a statement, Mr. Hall said, “The HEARTS Project will help create a state-of-the-art facility and we look forward to seeing it become a destination for Frisco’s students, residents and visitors for generations to come.”
The campaign’s $100 million goal is decidedly ambitious, Mrs. Meinershagen says. “Yes, it definitely is a lot, but performing arts centers are not typical buildings. They are the most complex of any kind. They require acoustics that are at the highest level.”
The dollar amount was determined as it is in line with “what we have seen with other comparable performing arts centers that have finishes that are world class. Of course, we believe (being located) at HALL Park and across from a world-class sports complex at The Star, that we deserve nothing less than world class for the arts.”
She points to Plano ISD’s Robinson Fine Arts Center for comparison purposes. Scheduled to open this year, the 82,000-square-foot venue was funded through the district’s $67.5 million bond that passed in 2016. “We can look at that and say that’s kind of comparable to what we would get in Frisco.” However, she reminds, “Frisco has always done things bigger and better than (other) communities. We pride ourselves on that.”
The HEARTS Project is employing a variety of fundraising strategies to attract and inform potential donors. Tax-deductible donations beginning at the $100 level can be made on its website, heartsproject.org. People may also text the word HEARTS to 59925 to receive news and updates about the performing arts center.
Its recently launched Audience Circle podcast series on YouTube explores topics relevant to the center’s future patrons. The purpose is to “inform the … people who are going to fill the audience. Any successful performing arts center will need a full audience,” Mrs. Meinershagen says.
The series’ first installment in September featured an interview with Sandra Moon, who Frisco Arts Foundation selected to chair the HEARTS Project.
A senior executive of the Sam Moon Group (owner of retailer Sam Moon Trading Company), which built the Hyatt Regency Frisco-Dallas hotel as well as the Renaissance Dallas at Plano Legacy West hotel and the forthcoming JW Marriot hotel in Dallas’ Arts District, Mrs. Moon is also an accomplished pianist. As a youth, she performed as a soloist with the Honolulu Symphony in her native Hawaii.
She currently serves on the board of directors of The Arts Community Alliance (TACA) in Dallas and is the former chair of Plano’s Legacy Cultural District. She is also a former board member of the Dallas and Plano Symphonies and Dallas-based Chamber Music International and was a founding member of the American Film Institute.
Mrs. Moon, who is a member at Hope Fellowship Church and for many years played piano at Stonebriar Community Church in Frisco, says she is excited to lead the fundraising efforts for Frisco’s performing arts center, as similar facilities elsewhere have “really changed the makeup of a city. …This is going to be a game-changer.”
Given her experience as a musician, “I understand what’s on the line because growing up in Honolulu there were no opportunities” to perform at world-class venues. She flew to Los Angeles and New York to “play at those great halls. … To have one here in Frisco … would just be amazing.”
Mrs. Moon says she has “a heart for giving opportunities to children who have this remarkable talent because it’s all coming full circle. You want to see the opportunities that were given to you also given to the next generation.”
“Sandra sees the diamond that the project can be and that’s why she’s involved,” Mrs. Meinershagen says. “Others in the community see the potential for this project and it does take big vision. … The more grand and incredible and innovative and tech-forward this performing arts center can be, the more excited big donors will be.”
Additional information about the HEARTS Project is available at www.heartsproject.org.
Lisa Ferguson is managing editor of Frisco STYLE Magazine.