Proposition 400: To fund a Tempe Visual and Performing Arts Center. Many Tempe residents pushed for proposition 400 to be passed because they believed they needed more culture in their city. There was a call for more art, music, theater, painting, dance, and sculpture within the Tempe community. It was pointed out that the Tempe campus of Arizona State University has many performing arts activities but those are exclusively for students and faculty and exclude the rest of the public. The Tempe Municipal Arts Commission determined that Tempe needed its own community artistic venue which is why proposition 400 was put up for a vote in the first place; it passed with flying colors. The 63 million dollar Center for the Arts only costed Tempe taxpayers an extra one-tenth of a cent. $450,000 of that was raised by the Rio Salado Foundation as that is an organization that is always looking for ways to better the Tempe community.
The Tempe Center for the Arts (TCA) is 24 acres and features an 80,000 square-foot center with theaters, galleries, and an art/sculpture garden. The TCA also boasts their outdoor gathering spaces; the most popular being referred to as simply ‘Lakeside’ which overlooks the Tempe Town Lake and has comfortable seating to enjoy the stunning 180 degree view of the lake. The theater at the Tempe Center for the Arts is the heart of the TCA. The magnificent theater holds 600 seats and the stage can be used for: drama, opera, dance, musical theater, orchestra, and various other recitals. There is also a splendid 200 seat studio which can be utilized for technical staging or audience seating and can be used for a wide variety of events and activities.
The City of Tempe took charge in developing the Tempe Center for the Arts which opened to the public on September 9, 2007. There was originally some apprehensions as to whether or not the Tempe Center for the Arts would be all that popular considering that there were already Art Centers in Phoenix, Scottsdale, Chandler, and a new center in Mesa. Those concerns were soon soothed at the weekend grand opening of the TCA from September 7-9, 2007. The 7th and the 8th was a private opening for the political elite in Tempe which mainly consisted of developers, congressmen, current and former mayors, city council members, and members of the press. The general public was allowed to experience the Tempe Center for the Arts for the first time on that Sunday, September 9th. The TCA was packed full all weekend, the parking lots were completely filled, traffic became horrible, and almost every room at the new TCA was crowded with people; which appeased any anxieties that the endeavor was going to be a flop. Tempe Mayor Hugh Hallman explained that the TCA was to be a vital component of the revival project of the Mill Avenue area and downtown Tempe. Tempe was already becoming a bustling city with the creation of the Tempe Town Lake in 1999 which completely revitalized the city and made it a hot tourist destination.
After only a year of operation, the Tempe Center for the Arts had already sold 41,000 tickets for 68 productions, there had been 400 performances, 300 non-performances, roughly 47,000 visitors to the art gallery, thirteen different artists showcased in the gallery, and about 1,200 volunteer hours at the TCA. One of the first exhibits was called “But it’s a Dry Heat” which was used to celebrate Arizona’s environment. Artists attempted to show dry heat not just in terms of Arizona weather, but as a state of mind as well.