DOWNEY - As city officials continue courting reputable firms to handle the overall management and operation of the Downey Theatre, community groups looking for other options are fortunate as several establishments within the city offer large meeting spaces for more affordable rates.Although the Downey Theatre has several regular users throughout the year, including the Downey Civic Light Opera, the Downey Symphony, the Downey Rose Float Association, and Downey United School District, the 738 seat-venue is unprofitable and loses about $1 million in city funds every three years. Some suspect that the facility's rental rates, which are set by the City Council, are the reason for its lack of use. Renting the theatre for any six-hour period, Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 12 a.m., is nearly $650. On Friday, Saturday and Sunday the rate jumps to $750. Groups using the theatre are also required to pay personnel charges for staff needed to supervise the stage and operate the sound equipment during performances. More fees may apply depending upon the needs of the group. Although the Downey Theatre sports one of the largest seating capacities in the city, community organizations and groups interested in hosting an event without paying quite as much can utilize several locations. Among the locations is Desert Reign Assembly of God. Located on 11610 Lakewood Blvd., the newly-constructed church rents its sanctuary, which seats more than 500 people. Though similar in price to the Downey Theatre, the church has no fixed rates and can reduce them depending on the need of the group. The church also offers a smaller meeting room for rent that seats 50-100 people. Next door to the Downey Theatre, groups can utilize the Embassy Suites Hotel, which also rents space for meetings and performances. Similar to Desert Reign's sanctuary, Embassy Suites, located at 8425 Firestone Blvd., bases their rates on the configuration of the room and the time of the reservation. The hotel's largest room, the 3,842-square-foot Imperial Ballroom, seats 400 people in a theater seating style, but can also be subdivided to host a group of 40 people or less. Across town, the city owns another venue that could be used for small productions and events. Located at 7810 Quill Dr., the Barbara J. Riley Community and Senior Center rents the nearly 250-seat Diane Boggs Auditorium at a lower price. After patrons pay a $350 refundable deposit, the auditorium has an hourly commercial rate of $140, a non-commercial rate of $95 and a non-profit rate of $85 per hour. Staff fees may apply if the facility is rented past normal business hours. The auditorium can be divided to accommodate 100 people on both sides. If more space is required, space can also be reserved at one of Downey's two golf courses, which both feature large 300-seat ballrooms. Similar to Embassy Suites, the price to hold an event at the Rio Hondo Event Center at 10627 Old River School Rd. or Los Amigos Country Club at 7295 Quill Dr. depends heavily on the set up and the time of the reservation. These facilities also offer catering services. Moreover, once the Downey Theatre is operated by a private company, the rental rates may change, but until then community groups can take advantage of Downey's many auditoriums, sanctuaries and ballrooms that provide a suitable space for potentially less money.
********** Published: May 7, 2010 - Volume 9 - Issue 3