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Lyric Opera, which owns Birch North Park Theatre, struggles to pay the mortgage and operating costs, which run more than $50,000 monthly. Now, the nonprofit organization is close to unloading the property.

According to Lyric Opera general director Leon Natker, the historic renovated theater, which has been for sale for more than six months, has interested buyers.

In a July 6 phone interview, Natker said he has “two offers still active,” one from Los Angeles and one from New York. The asking price is around $5 million, but he expects counter-offers.

Natker said they only wanted to deal with companies that would “be a partner and in the biz.” The new owner would be able to move concerts, plays, and events into the theater during what Natker called “free ice” periods (unbooked dates).

With the sale ("within 60 to 90 days"), Lyric Opera gets a long-term lease. Natker said negotiations will determine if existing staff will continue to operate the theater.

Lyric Opera was in the black until the economy tanked in 2008. Their $4 million mortgage has forced the sale. Natker mostly blamed the bank (formerly Washington Mutual, now JPMorgan Chase) loan terms for creating their financial predicament.

The theater is a union venue. But Natker praised Local 122 of the International Alliance of Theatrical and Stage Employees (IATSE) for taking a pay cut.

Natker said he still sees a good future for Lyric Opera. The “biggest show of our season,” he said, is “The Mikado.” He didn't mention it, but Natker is playing the lead role.

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Founder July 8, 2011 @ 11:25 a.m.

:-( :-)

The Theater is important to NP so I hope they will get a Company that will be a great "FIT" with NP!


SurfPuppy619 July 8, 2011 @ 9:42 p.m.

Founder, this is just around the corne from your homestead!

When I was in commercial real estate back in the 1990's I had a client that wanted to buy this theater, but the City owned it and like most things with the gov they screwed it up beyond fixing!

They had the 1987 Mr. San Diego (bodybuilding) in this theater, and Jerry Rodgers won that show! Jerry later went on win the Nationals and after Nationals took 2nd in the Mr. Universe, and became a professional BBer. Good guy. Good memories of this place.


Founder July 9, 2011 @ 5:56 p.m.

Hope you can visit NP soon! Lots of changes!


SurfPuppy619 July 9, 2011 @ 6:21 p.m.

I love it down there.

Founder, the owner of Stern's Gym said he got a real bad deal on his lease renewal back in 2004 or so, and he said if it was not squared up he was moving, is Stern's still there on Granada?????


Founder July 11, 2011 @ 10:13 a.m.

Yes If you can visit send me an email.. Lots to see in NP

Like Albus Dumbledore said: "Both the Good and the Bad...".


dwbat April 14, 2014 @ 1:59 p.m.

No more nonprofit performing arts companies, thank goodness. Instead it will now be run like a real business! Remember, it's called show BUSINESS! ;-)


Steve Terry July 27, 2011 @ 11:14 p.m.

It's a lovely venue, really. Nice location, and nice theatre. It could do with some softer seats, though. Really. It's like they went for "30 minute" seats. Too hard.


dwbat April 14, 2014 @ 2:52 p.m.

I understand they have put in new seating, and actually added more seats!


dwbat Aug. 30, 2011 @ 1:19 p.m.

I wonder if there were restrictions on installing modern seats, since this building has historic designation.


dwbat Oct. 16, 2011 @ 8:42 a.m.

Natker is now out of a job, his prediction of the building's sale "within 60 to 90 days" did not happen, and Lyric Opera is filing Chapter 11.


dwbat April 14, 2014 @ 10:55 a.m.

It's interesting that former Lyric Opera general director (and singer) Leon Natker blamed others for the downfall. His statements to me about selling the theater building turned out to be bogus. He later left town, never to return. Sound familiar? Now San Diego Opera general director (and former singer) Ian Campbell seems to be repeating that scenario. This should be a lesson that singers/actors/dancers/etc. should NOT be hired to run a performing arts organization. They rarely can do it well. And they cannot be trusted with money, or with telling the truth about what's happening behind the scenes.


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