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UTPB secures funds for dream arts center - Odessa American: Education

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UTPB secures funds for dream arts center

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Posted: Friday, June 29, 2007 12:00 am

Grant Billingsley had plenty reason for his enthusiasm Friday morning after raising more than $18 million since April for the UTPB Wagner Noel Performing Arts Center.

“It’s a good morning,” said Billingsley, who chaired a community advisory committee responsible for the fund-raising campaign.

Check that.

“It’s a great morning,” he continued. “It’s a great day.”

And how for UTPB.

The performing arts center will soon be a reality after a fund-raising campaign raised $19.2 million for the new center, $1.2 million more private funding than needed.

Billingsley called the 2,000-seat performance hall with a 200-seat, multiuse recital space and academic area a huge project and opportunity for the Permian Basin.

The Texas Legislature approved $45 million in initial funding in May 2006. Soon after, the University of Texas System Board of Regents allotted an additional $3 million.

The advisory committee however learned what $45 million would achieve: a center with facilities and design that were “modest … good … basic … (and) minimal,” Billingsley said consultants told the committee.

But the 24-member committee set three goals: excellent acoustics, quality construction and expansion of the cultural and education opportunities.

The $45 million wasn’t cutting it for the committee’s expectations. Their design hopes would cost $66 million, they learned.

Start raising funds, the board of regents told them.

And do it by July 1.

Gulp.

OK, Billingsley said.

“I had a lot of people snicker at me: ‘Boy, that’s great. You go,’ ” he said.

About six months later, it appeared to be no problem, thanks to local donors giving $19.2 million, a cool $1.2 million more than the goal with $10 million of the gifts coming from Ellen Noël of Odessa and Midlanders Lissa and Cy Wagner.

And after an additional $8 million in state funding for construction and staffing costs was secured this past legislative session, the university has an $8.7 million surplus that will be used toward establishing a permanent endowment.

Rep. Buddy West, who was present at the announcement, defended the project’s state funding when it came into question on the House of Representatives’ floor near the 80th legislative session’s end.

“He sold it,” Billingsley said of the Odessa Republican’s pro-funding argument. “He told them why it was important, and that was it. That was the last question.”

West received a standing ovation from the news conference crowd. He joked during the ovation that he didn’t know what he said.

Billingsley knew West’s contribution though. He watched over the debate live over the Internet, he said.

“I kept going, ‘Wow. Wow,’ ” he said. “And it was great.”

The donations were split almost evenly between Midland and Odessa, Billingsley said, championing the center’s widespread support.

This performance hall will be centrally located near the university’s Center for Energy and Economic Diversification about halfway between the two cities.

“This continues to be an extraordinary project with extraordinary support from all of the Permian Basin,” UTPB President David Watts told the crowd.

Watts expects premiere artists to grace the performance hall stage from country legend George Strait to other world-class opera performers.

The $66 million project’s construction is expected to begin in January 2009 and be complete by mid-year 2011.

The UTPB Wagner Noël Performing Arts Center donor list:

>> $5 million and above: Ellen Noël, Lissa and Cy Wagner.

>> $1 million to $4,999,999 million: Helen Greathouse Charitable Trust, Wood Family Foundation.

>> $250,000 to $499,999: Karen and Spencer Beal, City of Midland, Community National Bank, Kelly Cox, Cindy and Nick Fowler, Rhonda and Frosty Gilliam, Arden and Rosalind Redfern Grover, Ted and Jodi Hogan, Investment Corporation of America, John B. and Doris Casey Mason, Odessa Industrial Development Corporation, Lura and Richard Sivalls and The Scharbauer family.

>> $100,000 to $249,9999: Nancy Anguish, The M.O. Boring Jr. family, Mike and Kathy Cowan, Peggy and Bob Cowan, Ken and Peggy Dean, D. Kirk Edwards, Leah and Jerry Fullinwider, Ann and Ken Hankins Jr., Ryan C. Hoerauf, Vicki and Clint Hurt, Johnson, Miller & Co. CPAs PC, Earl Rodman and Jim and Claire Woodcock.

>> $50,000 to $99,999: Mr. And Mrs. Ernest Angelo Jr., Laurie and Miles Boldrick, Sue Starr Boldrick, Paula and Frank Cahoon, Dorothy and Earle Craig, Frank Deaderick, Elms, Faris & Company CPAs, Nancy Hull, Jeanie and Tom E. Johnson, Margaret and Mickey Jones, Mary Kennedy and family, L&M Charitable Foundation Inc., Scott W. Long, Midland-Odessa Symphony & Chorale, Midland Reporter-Telegram, Morrow Family Foundation, Odessa American, Timothy H. Parker, Sewell Ford, Don and Gwyn Sparks, and STA Benefits, Ltd.

Source: UTPB public information office

Odessa, TX

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