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Green Center: A vision delivered

  • Sonoma State University President Ruben ArmiƱana in the Joan and Sanford I. Weill Hall in the Green Music Center (JOHN BURGESS / The Press Democrat)

Sonoma State University's $145 million Green Music Center, after a final boost from a banking magnate, is set to open Saturday, catching attention around the country.

The opening is a decade later than first projected. In the 15 years since the dream was launched and 12 years since ground was broken, the center has been a costly tale of aspiration and controversy, hindered by slippery economic slopes and elevated by startlingly rich support.

“It's happening,” said SSU President Ruben Armiñana, whose legacy will be marked indelibly by a project for which he has been shepherd and cheerleader from the start.

“Despite all the doubt, it's happening,” he said, pleasure and relief clear in his voice.

About $15 million still is needed to complete the 250-seat Schroeder recital hall and an outdoor pavilion for 10,000 people partially funded by a Mastercard sponsorship. But the 600,000-square-foot music center feels whole in a way it never has before.

And Armiñana — who always has characterized it in understated terms as a union of education and culture — now takes flight when articulating his vision for it.

“It will help us all think about and be challenged about what the world is and could be, through different lenses of the mind and the senses,” he said.

The center's chief private benefactor, former Citigroup CEO and Chairman Sanford “Sandy” Weill, paints it as an institution that will become a cultural gathering place with international appeal, heightening SSU's profile while serving as a resource for at-risk youth.

“It will make Sonoma State a unique campus where people from all over the world will want to come. It is ambitious, but I think it's doable,” Weill said.

“All the PR is right,” he said, referring to Sonoma County's renown as a food and wine center, its temperate climate and the concert hall's nascent but blossoming reputation.

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