A week before the 2007 grand opening of the newly remodeled Grand Theatre Center for the Arts, a contractor asked Jeffrey Haskett if he really needed the floor of the main stage for the inaugural concert by Linda Ronstadt.
Haskett smiled as he told the story on Wednesday, Aug. 28, of the last-minute construction and the downtown theater’s successful opening as he wrapped up his time as cultural arts manager for performing arts. Haskett recently resigned and his last day is Friday, Aug. 30.
"The theater is really unique — it has a presence and a history," he said. "There is nothing like arriving early before a show and turning on the music and being all alone in the theater and feel the history."
The 35-year-old departs following organizational changes initiated by the city, which operates the arts center.
Kim Scarlata, the recreation services program manager for Tracy, was given "total administrative control" of the Grand Theatre Center for the Arts in July, according to City Manager Leon Churchill.
Churchill said Wednesday that the theater needed more attention, and the shuffle placed Scarlata in a better position at the Grand.
"It puts Kim in the forefront for quality-of life-issues for the community," Churchill said.
But Haskett said the reorganization also moved him away from the arts manager leadership position, a role he hopes to continue at another theater.
Haskett joined the Grand Theatre team as technical supervisor three weeks before the grand opening six years ago.
He said one of his proudest moments was overcoming a series of obstacles — including construction delays on the main stage — to complete the rebirth of an abandoned 1923 theater and several adjoining buildings as the Grand Theatre Center for the Arts.
"Being part of that team that bridged an improbable set of challenges to open on time was special," Haskett said. "None of us slept the day before."
Since then, he has arranged the Grand’s performance seasons, partly in cooperation with local community groups.
He said his goal was to keep the center busy and have something happening all the time.
Programs such as the Cinematic Treasures film series, Friday night jazz shows and productions by Tracy Performing Arts Foundation and Tracy Repertory Theatre all drew newcomers to the Grand, Haskett said, and exposed them to other offerings.
Haskett said the theater is attracting better-known acts, including country music star Kellie Pickler, who played a sold-out show in September 2011, and 2012 season opener Willie Nelson. Those shows and others, he said, promote the theater as a regional performance center.
"The Willie Nelson show was certainly the highlight of the bookings I’ve done," Haskett said. "He was the biggest name on our stage."
Even as he leaves the downtown theater, Haskett hopes some of the programs he started will continue, including programming that centers around local residents.
"I hope they continue to target arts education and build a community," Haskett said. "I want to see audience building through family participation and schools. I think that’s a better way than flashy shows."
Grand Foundation President Mike Souza expects a smooth transition and business as usual as Haskett departs and Scarlata, the recreation services program manager, takes charge of the theater.
"I think it’s unfortunate we’re losing him," Souza said. "I think with Kim overseeing and the rest of the staff, I think things will run smoothly."
Souza said the Grand is likely to continue to draw upon community members for its theatrical season.
"The whole cornerstone was having a place the community can use, whether visual or performing arts," Souza said. "Kim will continue to work with the foundation to outreach to the community."
Haskett hopes to find a leadership role as arts manager of another theater and is looking at the Bay Area, Texas and the East Coast.
During his 50- to 60-hour work weeks at the Grand, Haskett said, his wife sometimes volunteered at the theater just so they could spend some time together.
But he said he expects to miss the support staff, the local people he met during shows and the history of the reconstructed 1923 theater.
"I will miss the people and all the ushers. Their personality was fun at the shows," he said. "I took ownership of the community shows — I wanted them to be the best possible."
The city is hiring a technician to handle Haskett’s technical theater duties at the Grand Theatre Center for the Arts.
Scarlata, who will take over the box office and season booking, is at a conference in until Sept. 3 and could not be reached this week.
• Contact Glenn Moore at 830-4252 or email@example.com.