Economic driver

A big vision and big donations have laid the foundation for a performing arts center and school in Douglas County.

And those planning the center believe it's going to spur private-sector development hotels and restaurants to serve throngs of visitors from around the world.

The vision is this: "A really high quality art center that will attract international performers, an international destination," says Lane Baxter, founder, chairwoman and executive director of Sierra Tahoe Performing Arts Center, a non-profit corporation.

Charles Grimshaw, a member of the group's board and a resident of both northern and southern Nevada, donated 93 acres at the northeast corner of the intersection of Highway 395 and Johnson Lane to the nonprofit corporation.

Through Innovative Communities, Inc. Grimshaw will build hotels and restaurants on the property to serve the tourists expected from across the country and the world.

"He would like to see it benefit the people and surrounding areas," says Baxter.

Plans for the center, expected to seat 2,500, incorporate beams, boulders, glass and water features, says board member Robert Hartman.

"It's designed to be complimentary to Carson Valley and the surroundings," says Baxter. "I have a vision of this building being something that makes people say, 'what a beautiful building!'"

The architect is Reno-based Larry Henry Architecture and the builder will be Q&D Construction. It's expected to open by 2009.

The stage will host all performing arts: theatre, opera, ballet and jazz but no rock. In addition to the performing arts center, Baxter plans satellite offices for famous schools of Italy, a performing arts school, and a school for autistic children with artistic aptitude. She foresees scholarships to allow students from this school and another in Italy to travel cross-culturally.

The non-profit group expects private donations to fund the project. Baxter has already secured $25 million from a single donor and plans to donate a substantial amount herself.

Baxter retired in the mid 1990s from traveling the world as an opera singer. A Gardnerville resident, she was born in Fallon and raised in Carson City. Six generations of her family are native Nevadans.

The non-profit group has met informally with staff from the Douglas County manager and planning manager offices to identify early on any land issues that may arise. To proceed, it needs approval from the Douglas County Board of Commissioners.

Organizers also met with the Carson Valley Chamber of Commerce to make the plans known.

"It's a big project with a lot of hurdles to overcome as anything of this magnitude would be, "says Skip Sayre, executive director of the chamber. "We think a project like this would be a wonderful addition to the Carson Valley. We'll want to be supportive and help them get the word out to about events and activities."


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