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Theater hopes down to wire

With the clock ticking on the proposed Crescent Theatre project, supporters plan to make one last push today by asking Dade City commissioners to dip into a $2-million reserve fund.

If that fails _ or a miracle sponsor doesn't step forward amid a flurry of last-minute fundraising calls _ and the deadline passes at midnight, a dream that has inched along since 1998 may come to a halt.

After reaching out to donors this past week, supporters of the proposed Fifth Street performing arts center said Monday they raised another $30,000 in pledges. But the project is still $300,000 short.

Supporters said they hope Dade City will come through. The city already pledged $15,000, but organizers hatched a plan Monday to press commissioners at today's 5:30 p.m. meeting for a much bigger commitment from a $2-million fund the city created with the sale of a city-owned nursing home.

With more city money, theater backers said they would again ask Pasco County commissioners for money, a request the county rejected last week.

Community Aging and Retirement Services has worked on the theater bid for four years, since the idea of combining a senior center and theater at the old Crescent Theatre building was presented. As the effort evolved, state money paid for the senior center and community theater supporters set their sights on a free-standing building next to the senior center.

But that money has been tough to find.

"What we're lacking, to start with, is the corporate sponsorship," CARES liaison Charles Sobel said.

"We still need a major donor to come through," said Barbara Friedman, of the Heritage Arts Foundation.

Dade City, she said, might be ready to make a serious donation.

"I just don't think that we went back to them and asked for more," she said.

Supporters set a self-imposed deadline of today to reach the $500,000 in donations required to seek a matching state grant. If the money isn't there by the end of the day, they said, they will give donors the option of giving the money to CARES for the senior center; setting aside the money for another run, someday, at a theater; returning the money to the donors; or giving it to the Heritage Arts Foundation.