Repairs outnumber funds for opera house 

Barbara Ockel may have bitten off more than she can chew.

Planned renovations, subsequent delays and newly discovered safety concerns at the Bayview Opera House have become her pet projects and she wants to see them all through — even if it takes several years.

Ockel took over as managing director of the cultural nonprofit organization last year as it battled myriad financial problems. Its two previous managers were fired over allegations of money mismanagement. Ockel has stepped up as interim director, helping push the renovations forward.

A milestone was the discovery of the Douglas fir flooring under the worn linoleum in the main auditorium, Ockel said. The flooring received its last coat of finish recently.

“I’m so happy with the outcome,” she said. “I’m on cloud nine with that floor.”

That excitement, though, was short-lived after water damage was discovered over the entire back wall of the main auditorium. Ockel estimates it will take $200,000 to replace it.

Additionally, a stairway needs to be redone, a bathroom meeting handicap standards needs to be built and Ockel said she would like to see the second-floor balcony restored.

“That’s a pie in the sky, though,” she said. “We need to update our electrical before we do the balcony.”

The opera house opened to the public in 1888 as part of the Masonic Temple, according to opera house documents. The auditorium seats 300 people and now serves as an arts and culture center for Bayview youth.

Plans to renovate the historic building — including the interior floor, a proscenium arch and an exterior welcome square — began in 2007 with a $197,000 grant from Save America’s Treasures. It is Ockel’s hope to complete several more projects by 2012.

Money, though, has always been the barrier for the opera house, but even more now after the nonprofit was denied a grant from Department of Children Youth and Family, which is having its own budget problems.

The Arts Commission does give the opera house a $313,000 budget, but Ockel said that money barely pays for the venue’s current program. As a result, many important projects will need to wait until funds become available.

“Each time we do this we find we need to do that,” Ockel said.

Ockel estimates the entire cost of needed renovations could be as much as $3 million.

Opera house blues

$197,000: Grant money spent on restored flooring
$200,000: Needed to replace water-damaged wall
$3M: Total projects
Endless: Number of projects to be completed

Source: Bayview Opera House

akoskey@sfexaminer.com

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