Bethel Church & The Redding Convention Center: A Match Made in Heaven?

In the midst of a failing economy, the City of Redding has struggled to keep the Convention Center open.  This year, the City developed a controversial solution to keep the doors open by proposing a lease deal with Bethel Church.  On August 1, the City agreed to lease the Convention Center to Bethel Church for 4.75 years which will generate over $1 million in revenue for the City of Redding.  Advance Redding, a non-profit subsidiary of Bethel Church is the organization overseeing the management of the Convention Center with all board members appointed by Bethel Church.  (www.redding.com).   The Church often has a negative reputation in Redding because of its worship services and Church of Supernatural Ministry.  However, Bethel’s presence in Redding has exploded over the last several years and is a major economic contributor for the city, bringing in millions of dollars in revenue from it’s conferences/schools.  While the lease proposal may be a good economic solution to keep the Convention Center doors open, it may also be a disaster waiting to happen.  By leasing the convention center to a church, the City of Redding has given a private organization control of a public building that was paid for by tax dollars.  This unpopular decision will have a negative effect on the Redding economy and show schedule at the convention center.

During the meeting to vote on the issue, the residents opposing the lease proposal emphasized that the City is giving a public building to a private business.  (Mobley).   Former Redding resident, John Ritrovato, drove 12 hours to attend the meeting.  “Federal and local government does not seem to remember it represents the people,” Ritrovato said. “I attended Bethel, and I love that church. But I do not believe people here want the city to take a publicly-owned building their tax dollars paid for and turn it over to a church.”  (Mobley)

The lease agreement will have a negative impact on the local economy.  Each year the Convention Center costs nearly $1 million in hotel taxes to run.  As a potential solution, City officials considered privatizing the 41-year-old facility but last year a council-appointed commission advised the City to continue running the convention center.   (Longoria).  According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor, the unemployment rate in Shasta County was 14.2% in August, one of the highest in the state.  (www.bls.gov).  The outfall of the City’s lease with Bethel Church will result in at least 80 jobs lost as Bethel plans on using volunteers to run the Convention Center.   (www.kcrtv.com).

As a result of the Bethel lease, Redding residents may find the Convention Center show schedule lacking compared to what it has been in past years.  Advance Redding will run the Convention Center according to guidelines in the lease contract which requires a minimum of 60 days’ worth of shows/events unaffiliated with Bethel.  (www.redding.com).   According to a city report, the auditorium has averaged 72 events per year which makes the terms of the Bethel lease fall short.  (www.redding.com).   Opponents of the lease argue that allowing a church to run the Convention Center may exclude the public and allow a limited variety of shows which reflect Bethel’s preferences.  Even if Bethel fulfills its contractual obligations, will it exploit them by introducing its religious views into these venues or will event promoters go elsewhere because they don’t want to be associated with a church?  It may only be a matter of time before conflicts of interest become real problems for the City of Redding.

Times are tough and the City of Redding is no stranger to the current economic issues. The City’s lease with Bethel Church will allow the ailing Convention Center to remain open to the community, but at what price?   On the surface it appears the City has thrown a very costly “Hail Mary” pass and the community will suffer.  The City of Redding no longer controls the convention center, the community has less access to the center and local jobs will be lost.  Only time will tell if this decision turns out to be a good one for the City.

Click here for an explanation of the Shasta College student essay project.

Tracy Schumann is a student at Shasta College.

A News Cafe, founded in Shasta County by Redding, CA journalist Doni Chamberlain, is the place for people craving local Northern California news, commentary, food, arts and entertainment. Views and opinions expressed here are not necessarily those of anewscafe.com.

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12 Responses

  1. Avatar rmv says:

    ????????????? TIME ???????????????

    JUST PLEASE DON'T PLANT

    PALM TREES AROUND IT??

    GOD BLESS AMERICA (and her children)!

  2. Avatar Adrienne Jacoby says:

    Thanks for your informative insights.

  3. Avatar Kris Vallotton says:

    Hi Tracy,

    My name is Kris Vallotton and I am the Chairman of board of Advance Redding. I am sure you didn't do it on purpose but you didn't accurately represent the facts of the contract between the City of Redding and Advance Redding in your article. You also don't seem to understand the over all impact that this will have on the finances of our city. I certainly respect your right to disagree with the decision that was made by our city council but I was however, surprised by the fact that you must not have read the contract or interviewed the parties involved. I am doubtful that knowing the facts will change your perspective as you seem to have your mind made up already, but it would be good in a public forum like a news article, to accurately recount the facts and allow your audience to decide what to think for themselves Thank you for caring about our city. Please feel free to contact us. Kris

  4. Avatar Joanne Lobeski Snyde says:

    Kris, it sounds like you have data that Tracy could have used in her article if she had had it! Perhaps you could share your data with Tracy, or with the readers of A News Cafe. I would say that Tracy's article fairly reflects the information that was available to her; that is to say that she didn't intentionally bias her article based on what information she was able to dig up.

  5. Avatar Val says:

    Tracy, I urge you to speak with reps from Advance Redding and get first hand information. It appears your statements are inaccurate. Booked events for 2012 have exceeded expectations, and Civic Auditorium employees have been placed in other departments within the city. The transition is organized and collaborative. I'm looking forward to reading an updated, factually accurate article.

  6. Avatar Jon Lewis says:

    My two cents' worth: Readers should keep in mind that, although it was not identified as such at the top of the article, this is a student essay. The author and her classmates were instructed to develop an opinion on a controversial issue and defend it in a persuasive manner. Unfortunately, the format on this site can lead readers to view this piece as a conventional news article or analysis.

    Check out Shasta College instructor Dionne Palmer's explanation for more on the essay project.

    • Avatar Jon Lewis says:

      Correction (or ooops, as we like to say in the opinion biz): Tracy's piece is now identified as one of the Shasta College student essays. If memory serves, it was not identified as such earlier in the day. I am now going to slowly back away and quit while I'm behind 😉

      • Thanks, Jon. Yes, that label was there from the start.

        We were careful to make sure that readers understood that these Shasta College student essays were part of a class project; an opportunity for students to research and argue their opinions and have them published on a public news site where readers are overwhelmingly more civilized and respectful than some other online news sites' comments section.

        These essays are more in the vein of letters to the editor, not vetted news pieces written by professional reporters.

        But part of this exercise is for readers to also give feedback and weigh in with their thoughts and observations. This makes this a good experience for the students, too. Finally, we all learn a little something along the way.

        I know this is unorthodox, but where else except aNewsCafe.com could we try something that blends an academic assignment, opinion and public online comment in one place?

  7. Avatar Joanne Lobeski Snyde says:

    Well put Jon. You are a respected journalist in Northern California and you've been in the trade so many years. Would that we all could learn more from you. Perhaps you could define journalistic rules of conduct for us.

  8. Avatar Joanne Lobeski Snyde says:

    I would love to read anything you would write for Anewscafe.

  9. Avatar Angela says:

    Hi Tracy,

    I have really enjoyed reading all the responses to your article. Although I do not agree with your overall opinion in the transaction of the convention center, I do understand how many people in our community may have had a bad experience or encounter with an individual from a christian organization, whether it be Bethel or not, and in turn could have polluted their ability to trust that the "church" would actually want to help the community as well as meet a need on their end. The convention center without an intervention of some sort, and I believe Bethel's offer was the best, would have continued to lose money each year or would have shut down completely; which was made very clear this past year. I really do believe that Advance Redding and their board have the City of Redding's best interest in mind and I anticipate the benefits this lease will have to the building itself and to our cities economy. What I hope for the most is that during the next few years maybe some skeptism that one might have developed from a bad experience with "the church" or a "christian" would slowly dimish by watching the benefits of this agreement unfold. I'd like to believe that most (not all) Christians really do want the best for others and will do whatever they can in their means to do so. Bethel has the means and from most (not all) of my experiences they really do care about people.

    I appeal to Redding residents to attend shows your interested in, invest in the decision the city council has made for our City. It would be unfortunate for someone to miss the chance to create lasting memories with their family and friends all because they didn't agree with a lease, all because of an opinion. A missed opportunity because of stubborness is no harm to Redding Advance, but to the stubborn individual themself.

    Doni, thank you for allowing students to express themselves, love the idea of bringing the educational system into the public forum…basically genius! 🙂

    Thanks for reading,

    Merry Christmas all and Happy New Year

    Angela

  10. My family owns a small business in the Market & Tehama Streets area. We are very near the Civic Auditorium. My husband and I moved here in the early 70's. We worked with Bethel at that time sharing many cultural events at the Civic Auditorium volunteering to do all the PR for well known Artists, Speakers and regional events.

    We are overjoyed to have our business Downtown again. Our small studio in the Historic Sherven Square Suite 101 (ground level) welcomes International friends every week and we are thankful. They tell me they come here to visit Redding because of Bethel Church. Yes, just this Friday a group of six all the way from South Africa.

    Last week our studio sent Art into St.Petersburg Russia and Singapore with our new International friends who also came here to find Bethel. Yes. I was happy to give them HOPE.