Scripps Ranch Theatre will eventually have to leave its performance site on the campus of Alliant International University. (photo by John Gregory)
Scripps Ranch Theatre Seeks New Location
The 40-year-old Scripps Ranch Theatre (SRT) is in search of a new location, both to grow its space and to prepare for the sale of the property now home to Alliant University, from which the Theatre subleases its performance space.
In a written statement, Valin Brown, CEO of Alliant Educational Foundation, which owns the 10455 Pomerado Road property where Alliant International University currently resides, confirmed that the property has been publicly listed for sale since January 2018. Brown said the University is now exploring options for its future location which could include development on the current site, relocating to another Scripps Ranch location or moving elsewhere in the local market. Either way, Alliant International University has another 1 1/2 years on its lease and will be on the site until at least Dec. 31, 2019.
Where SRT stages its productions after that is unknown.
“It’s always possible we could work with the new owner to get an extension,” SRT Executive Director Dave McClure said. “But as it stands now, we have a sublease through the University through the end of December 2019. That’s not that far away at this point.”
McClure notes that discussions about future plans and searching by the SRT Board of Directors are ongoing, and they are now in search of a commercial real estate agent to assist with the search.
When SRT moved into its current location in the Legler Benbough Theatre building at 9783 Avenue of Nations, it was taking over an existing theater space previously used by the Alliant’s theater program before that program ended. McClure said a similar pre-built theater space does not exist in the area.
“There’s nothing around here. We have a full-time, year-round program so it would be very difficult to work with another theater,” he said. “We’d be open to the idea, but there’s really nothing up this way on the I-15 corridor that would make it possible to do that and stay in San Diego, which is one of the things we want to do.”
With no existing theater space available, the next option would be acquiring and converting an existing space to host the Theatre. One challenge the board is facing, however, is available nearby property and local zoning. The Theatre’s board would like to lease a space close to its current location.
“That’s difficult because the zoning in Scripps Ranch Industrial park tends to be ‘prime industrial,’ which means they want industrial entities to go into those places,” McClure said.
A conditional use permit to enable a non-industrial occupant could be a possibility, he said, but approval would have to come from the City of San Diego.
McClure noted that the north side of Carroll Canyon road is not prime industrial.
“If we could find something there, that’s possible,” he said.
But McClure said SRT faces a “catch-22 situation” in funding and building any space to be the Theatre’s next home.
“The catch-22 is the idea that we would need a certain amount of funding to build a theater in a leased space,” he said. “But it’s very difficult to raise money and get people to contribute when you don’t know where you’re going to go.”
What kind of a place is SRT looking for in a new home?
“Ideally, we’d like to have about 10,000 square feet; right now, we probably have about 2,500,” McLure said. “We’d rather be at 180 seats, so we’d be about 50 percent bigger. We’d also like some set-building space, some rehearsal space, wings on the stage that are bigger than anything we have right now, and separate bathrooms for actors and crew members, so they don’t have to share them with the audience, which is what happens now.”
McClure said he doesn’t foresee any interruption in SRT’s operations, but the Theatre’s fans may see fewer productions per season until a new, permanent location is found, funded and built. He pointed out that previously in the Theatre’s history, performances have been held at the Scripps Ranch Swim & Racquet Club and even in the parking lot of the old Vons.
“It would probably be a cut back season a bit if we had to face that, but certainly we’d look to rent some other theaters for performances so that we wouldn’t lose everything,” McClure said. “But we haven’t crossed that bridge at this point.”
Anyone with ideas for a new location or an available property suitable for hosting a local theater can contact Dave McClure at email@example.com.
Meanwhile, the 2018-2019 Scripps Ranch Theatre season is underway with “Communicating Doors” running through Oct. 7. The next production will be “She Loves Me,” playing Nov. 9-Dec. 16. Visit scrippsranchtheatre.org for tickets.