The City of San Antonio’s Tricentennial Commission and partners have raised $2.16 million, or 30%, of the almost $7 million goal for private funding as of Aug. 4. Tricentennial officials estimate they have $4.115 million in “activations,” or promising funding leads. That leaves about $723,750 for which sources still need to be identified.

Staff and commissioners are working every day on fundraising, Tricentennial CEO Edward Benavides told the City Council’s Arts, Culture, and Heritage Committee on Tuesday. “I’m excited and confident in the work that we’re doing.”

Jan. 1, 2018 isn’t the deadline for all $7 million to be raised, Benavides said. Fundraising efforts will continue to support events later in the year.

With four months until the year-long celebration’s opening ceremony for San Antonio’s 300th anniversary on New Year’s Eve, many eyes are on the commission and its progress – including those of City Council members.

Tricentennial staff and commission chairs presented an overview of planned programming for 2018 to Council’s newly formed five-member committee, which met for the first time Tuesday.

No official vote or action was taken, but committee Chair Councilman Roberto Treviño (D1) directed Tricentennial staff to start providing Council with frequent updates on fundraising and planning status. Most council members agreed that they would like to have more information about Tricentennial funding as 2018 approaches.

“My concern is that we don’t have the information,” Treviño told the Rivard Report. “I think we all need to be kept abreast of all the facts and figures. We’re 138 days away. I’m counting on my colleagues to be here to help. I think that is what was really being said. [The Tricentennial team is] not in it by themselves.

“We’re going to get a more robust [report] that has the information that should answer any question we might have.”

Designing a celebration commemorating 300 years of San Antonio’s rich, sometimes painful history is no easy task. Hundreds of community partners and individuals are expected to contribute in some way – by hosting, organizing, or volunteering for events, Benavides told Council.

“There [is] a lot of high interest from the corporate sector, a lot of traction, a lot of engagement in the conversation,” Benavides said of the fundraising efforts. “It’s not that we’re done [after New Year’s]. … This will continue to evolve.”

The total Tricentennial budget, which was approved by the commission in September 2016, is about $18.2 million. Of that, the City and Bexar County are contributing roughly $6.6 million and $2.7 million of in-kind support, respectively.

Through the fiscal year budgets for 2017 and 2018, the City is giving a total of $1.3 million – $500,000 for education and history programming and $806,000 for Commemorative Week. The County is allocating $627,750 for Commemorative Week, which includes seven themed days of ceremonies, community events, and unveilings.

The Tricentennial Commission's approved budget comes to about $18.2 million.
The Tricentennial Commission’s approved budget comes to about $18.2 million. Credit: Courtesy / Tricentennial Commission

That leaves almost $7 million left for the private sector to fund. For the blowout New Year’s Eve celebration alone the Tricentennial Commission expects to spend about $1.5 million. There are funding requests out in the community for about $3 million, according to Kathleen Doria, a fundraising consultant working for the Tricentennial Commission.

A 20-minute fireworks show on May 4, 2018 – for which proposals are still being accepted – will take place on five miles of the Mission Reach.

According to the County and City request for proposal, they are looking for a company that can "design and execute a 20 minute Fireworks Extravaganza choreographed to music, which will punctuate a community celebration commencing in downtown San Antonio and continuing throughout a 5 mile route encompassing the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park."
According to the County and City request for proposal, organizers are looking for a company that can “design and execute a 20-minute Fireworks Extravaganza choreographed to music, which will punctuate a community celebration commencing in downtown San Antonio and continuing throughout a 5 mile route encompassing the San Antonio Missions National Historical Park.” Credit: Courtesy / Tricentennial Commission

“We get calls every day from prospective [donors],” Doria told the Rivard Report, but it’s also a matter of deciding which leads are legitimate and worth pursuing. That San Antonio’s community is so excited to get involved, however, is “a good problem to have.”

By the end of September, Doria expects to know whether at least half of the pending funding requests will result in donations.

Funding was not arranged in time for the Tricentennial to secure a $1.2 million contract for a music festival.

Separate from this budget are other special projects that have received private funding: $1.125 million from the Santikos Foundation for a Tricentennial exhibit at the Witte Museum and another $1 million personal donation from H-E-B Chairman and CEO Charles Butt to revitalize an Eastside park.

NOTE: This pie chart includes the $2.125 million that was donated "off budget" for the Witte Museum exhibit and renovations for Lincoln Park in the Eastside. The calculations in this article do not include that money as part of the total funding goal.
NOTE: This pie chart includes the $2.125 million that was donated “off budget” for the Witte Museum exhibit and renovations for Lincoln Park on the Eastside. The calculations in this article do not include that money as part of the total funding goal. Credit: Courtesy / Tricentennial Commission

“I don’t understand your pie chart,” Councilman Greg Brockhouse (D6) told Tricentennial representatives during the meeting. “The word ‘activations’ needs to go.”

It’s disingenuous to show a chart that assumes the answer will be “yes” to all the pending requests for funding, he said.

Brockhouse requested that Council receive updated information biweekly or weekly regarding progress. Without the right information about how big or small the Tricentennials’s funding gap is, he added, it’s hard for Council members to know where to put their own efforts.

“Let’s get all hands on deck to get you to be where you need to be,” he said.

It was not her intent to use “smoke and mirrors” when presenting this information, Doria replied, but merely to illustrate the large number of promising requests.

“I am happy to provide two pie charts” next time, she said.

“I’m not trying to cause you more work … but your industry lingo means nothing to the resident,” Brockhouse replied.

Councilwoman Rebecca Viagran (D3) requested that the Tricentennial Commission present a complete budget to the full Council soon, including how much has been spent so far.

“I understand they, as elected officials, have to work with worst-case scenarios … but they’re not in it day-to-day like we are and seeing all these positive inquiries,” Doria told the Rivard Report after the meeting.

Both Brockhouse and Treviño said they are not interested in micromanaging the Tricentennial.

“The Council’s role is to set the direction – the policy – and then hold people accountable for doing their jobs,” Brockhouse said after the meeting. “The only way we hold them [accountable] is we know exactly where we’re at.”

But Brockhouse added that he would like to know more about the artists and companies the Tricentennial Commission is hiring. He wants to make sure that “most of our money stays home” rather than be outsourced to other cities, states, or nations.

The Tricentennial Commission was created in June 2015, and staff spent 18 months developing mission statements, initiatives, and deliverables, Benavides said. The Commission had to give the go-ahead – which it did in September 2016 – for staff to be able to jumpstart fundraising efforts.

You can’t ask people for money without telling them what it’s for, Benavides said. The fundraising campaign kicked off at the end of 2016.

From the release of a commemorative book, to the development of an interactive mobile phone application, to the unveiling of major public art projects, to music festivals and more, the Tricentennial team and partners are striving to make 2018 a memorable year, Benavides said. Many of the projects and programs are expected to last well into the city’s future, to become so-called “legacy projects.”

Asked how long the Tricentennial would have to plan a year of events in a “perfect world,” Benavides said it’s a question he is asked often.

“In an ideal situation, yes, we would have liked to be created years ago … four or five years … [but] we don’t spend a lot of energy or time on that,” he said. “We just move forward.”

Iris Dimmick

Iris Dimmick

Senior reporter Iris Dimmick covers City Hall, politics, development, and more. Contact her at iris@sareport.org