Jessica Cejnar Andrews / Monday, July 1 @ 3:22 p.m.

Nick Rail Gets Renewed Support For Performing Arts Center; $42 Million Project Under Consideration For Federal Appropriations Dollars

Nick Rail, founder of the Partnership for the Performing Arts, presented conceptual art of what the $42 million performing arts center might look like. | screenshot

Nick Rail has secured a second joint letter of support from Crescent City and Del Norte County elected officials for an 800-seat performance venue they say is nearing shovel-ready status.

Appearing before the Board of Supervisors last Tuesday and the Crescent City Council on June 17, Rail said the Partnership for the Performing Arts is in the final stages of the center’s design and has submitted plans to the Division of the State Architect.

He listed the nonprofit organization’s accomplishments as well as a string of endorsements and showed them conceptual images of the venue he said was “95 percent of reality.”

The letter of support from local elected officials comes as the PPA seeks $1.5 million in Community Project Funding through Congressman Jared Huffman’s office as well as a California Jobs First grant.

“The center checks the boxes for diversity, equity and inclusivity and can tie its impact well beyond the county to include Humboldt, Lake and Mendocino counties,” Rail told councilors on June 17. “Support for our center and the many ways it will serve our community is virtually universal and we welcome any advice, help or introductions the Council can provide to move our capital campaign forward.”

Rail began playing trumpet as a student at Redwood Union Elementary School in 1959. He went on to found a chain of music retail stores in Southern California before selling the business and returning to Del Norte in 2019.

Since then, Nick Rail and his wife Lisa have spearheaded several projects to further musical education in Del Norte County beginning with the donation of 100 new musical instruments in 2020.

Endeavors include establishing a career technical education program focusing on instrument repair at Del Norte High School — one of four in the U.S., he says — and spearheading the renovation of the Crescent Elk Auditorium.

Rail has said that establishing a performing arts center that could offer a venue for students, the community and visiting performers is on his bucket list. In 2022, he founded the Partnership for the Performing Arts, entered into a memorandum of understanding with Del Norte Unified School District, which is providing the land and donated the first $1 million toward the project.

The Rails also obtained their first endorsements from the Crescent City Council and the Del Norte County Board of Supervisors in 2022.

“The original letter of support is dated enough that it simply needed a refresh,” Rail told the Outpost on Thursday.

The PPA envisions a $42 million facility that would provide a hub for students, community artists and visiting artists. The goal is to complete construction by January 2028.

Rail cited a U.C. Cooperative Extension study the nonprofit commissioned stating that the center could have an impact of roughly $1.9 million on the local economy.

But the $1.5 million Community Project Funding request from Huffman describes the performing arts center as a multi-purpose community civic center and emergency operations center.

“The project is an appropriate use of taxpayer funds because it is an efficient, elegant and cost-effective way to address multiple needs at once with a modest one-time investment of government funds,” Huffman wrote in a May 3 letter to Oklahoma Rep. Tom Cole, chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, and ranking member, Connecticut Rep. Rosa DeLauro.

In his letter to the House Appropriations Committee, Huffman said the PPA’s project could capture visitor dollars that’s currently being lost and “be an important factor in increasing the livability and desirability of the community to young professionals, families and older adults.”

Rail said the performing arts center project is one of 15 Huffman submitted to the appropriations committee for Community Project Funding dollars this year. He said the Partnership for the Performing Arts submitted its funding request to Huffman’s office on April 30.

“We don’t know when we find out,” he told the Outpost.

Despite receiving grant funding for the project, which includes $2.5 million from the California State Senate, the bulk of the $42 million will be received through private donations, Crescent City Mayor Blake Inscore said on June 17.

In response to a comment from county resident Linda Sutter, Inscore said that the Rails have never asked Crescent City or Del Norte County for public funds. But support from elected officials and community leaders is necessary for the project to move forward.

“Support like this is the only chance we have to raise $40 million,” Inscore said. “We have got to show we’re all 100 percent behind this.”

In addition to raising the funds needed to build the performing arts center, funding is necessary to establish an endowment that would enable the PPA to avoid charging a prohibitive usage fee for those who want to perform in Del Norte County.

“Once we raise that $42 million, we’ve got to get enough in there to subsidize the maintenance of the center so we have, not only sustainability, but we can open the door to anyone who wants to use it,” Rail said.

The PPA still needs to iron out the details with DNUSD, which owns the land, about how the facility itself will be maintained. Other details include finding a program director who oversee the schedule of performances as well as a marketing director, Rail said.

“DNUSD has first shot at the calendar,” he told the Outpost. “Brookings-Harbor School District has second. Community groups are next and then the touring artists.”

Rail said he has plans to go before the Curry County Board of Commissioners in July for a letter of support. He said he’s also hoping to present to the Brookings City Council.


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