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Deep pockets help make Green Center a reality

  • Joan and Sandy Weill donated $12 million to the Green Music Center on the SSU campus to complete the Joan and Sanford I. Weill Hall. (John Burgess / PD)

If the story of the Green Music Center has a tempo, it has been set by money.

In 1997, Telecom Valley leader Don Green and his wife, Maureen, gave Sonoma State University $10 million to build a choral auditorium modeled on Seiji Ozawa Hall at Tanglewood, in Lenox, Mass.

The Santa Rosa Symphony in 1997 pledged to raise $10 million toward the facility. Winery owners and symphony board members Jacques and Barbara Schlumberger gave $1 million to the effort in 1999.

It was estimated then that the music center would cost $47 million and that the 1,400-seat concert hall would open in 2002.

But a wrenching economic slowdown brought on by the bursting of the dot-com bubble dried up private and corporate donations. SSU said it would build the project in phases.

In 2003, the concert hall was put out to bid; the lowest bid came in more than $6 million over budget.

The project suffered an even stiffer setback in 2004, when bids again came in high, more than 35 percent over budget. Construction was delayed indefinitely.

Then, later in 2004, Sonoma State University President Ruben Armiñana outlined a new plan: The music center would be a public-private venture that would include an academic wing paid for by state education-facilities bonds.

“It puts the whole project together as it was originally conceived,” Armiñana said at the time.

That year, the total cost of the center was pegged at $63 million. Two years on, projected costs hit $87 million and the opening was projected for 2008.

By the decade's end, that number had grown to $100 million, fueled partly by rising construction costs.

It kept climbing and today, with about $15 million still needed for a recital hall and an outdoor pavilion, the total cost is estimated at $145 million, said Larry Furukawa-Schlereth, SSU's chief financial officer and executive director of the new music center.

Major donors have included:

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