Makeover For Bill Graham Civic?

San Francisco officials are working on a proposal to resurrect the Bill Graham Civic Auditorium from an occasionally used concert venue to something of its former glory. They expect to have it in the hands of Mayor Gavin Newsom by the end of June.

The Bill Graham Civic, an architecturally significant edifice facing Civic Center Plaza and claiming the Louise M. Davies Symphony Hall and Asian Art Museum as neighbors, hasn’t seen much action lately.

Of the 12 events booked for May in the 7,000-capacity building – which also houses 40 meeting rooms – only one is for a concert: Lenny Kravitz and Nikka Costa.

Ideas for the auditorium include an updating of its 1970s-era carpet and decor, replacing the sound system and eliminating hard surfaces that contribute to muddled acoustics, plus adding sports such as boxing and tennis, and creating sponsored box seating, according to the San Francisco Business Times.

The paper reported that city planners have been meeting with current operator SMG, reps of Anschutz Entertainment Group’s Phil Anschutz and those from Another Planet Entertainment in Berkeley.

It couldn’t be confirmed at press time if venue namesake Bill Graham Presents had been taking meetings but it has been suggested that the Clear Channel Entertainment-owned company could join in efforts to make it a less expensive proposition to book shows at the Bill Graham Civic.

Among the drawbacks cited are a lack of a permanent stage and fixed seating, and labor costs to load in and load out the building for every show.

Workers must be paid the prevailing wage in all city-owned properties, including the Bill Graham Civic.

“If a venue is filled 365 days a year, the union will negotiate that down, but that’s not the case here,” F.X. Crowley, business manager for International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees, Local 16, told the Business Times.

The Bill Graham Civic Auditorium lost some of its luster when the adjacent Brooks Hall closed in 1994 and the entire auditorium shut down for two years for seismic retrofitting. Business went elsewhere – usually to newer, more suitable buildings.

SMG has a contract to manage the building through 2009 and brought its own plans to officials recently, the newspaper reported.

“We’re telling the city, ‘Let’s reorient the building – make it into an entertainment, sports and civic venue,'” SMG GM Dick Shaff told the paper.

SMG’s proposal reportedly includes adding retractable bleachers, a new sound system, lighting and a stage to make the venue more visually pleasing and less expensive to set up.

Estimates of a full overhaul reach as high as $25 million.