County in talks about new facility

It would be a win-win-win situation: a new 1,000-seat performing-arts facility for San Mateo County, a new home for nonprofit Broadway by the Bay and a new tenant for Coyote Point’s old Castaways Restaurant.

The only problem now is where to come up with tens of millions of dollars. For the last few years, county Parks and Recreation officials have been in talks with San Mateo’s Broadway by the Bay, a longtime performing-arts group, about building a new performing-arts venue at the Coyote Point Recreation District. The project would be paid for with funds raised by Broadway by the Bay, on land leased by the county.

Parks officials presented the idea to county supervisors recently as part of the Coyote Point Master Plan and said they would support Broadway by the Bay’s project.

The concept is a lofty one: a state-of-the-art facility on a beautiful bluff overlooking the Bay at Coyote Point, large enough to seat 1,000 theatergoers and give the Peninsula a new venue for concerts, plays, musicals and dance performances.

It would be located at the site of the former Castaways Restaurant, which for decades operated at Coyote Point but in 2006 was bulldozed after the owners lost interest in renovating the blighted restaurant, Parks and Recreation senior planner Sam Hertzberg said.

Broadway by the Bay President Jay Benton said the nonprofit has been longing for a new home. For years, Broadway by the Bay has performed at San Mateo High School’s Performing Arts Center, which has some significant drawbacks, Benton said.

First, he said, the facility is too large — seating up to 1,600 — which is challenging for a company that mostly performs family musicals. And since the facility is part of a school, it is only available after-hours, which makes performances and rehearsals difficult to schedule, he said.

A few years ago, Broadway by the Bay commissioned a study to determine the viability of a new venue at Coyote Point, and it was confirmed a theater that met the nonprofit’s criteria would be feasible at the site, he said.

“The next question is where we get the money,” Benton said. “And that’s a good question because it’s a big number.”

Benton declined to say precisely how big that number is, but confirmed it’s in the tens of millions ofdollars. He said after the nonprofit fills its recently vacated executive director seat, it will move forward with a study to determine where those funds might come from.

kworth@examiner.com

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