Melissa Etheridge provides fine time at California Center for the Arts, Escondido

Melissa Etheridge at Escondido with KUSI-TV's Brandi Williams

For its 2014-15 season, the California Center for the Arts, Escondido featured 26 shows with 10 sellouts and a total of 285,000 visits to Escondido’s cultural hub. Revenue was up about $35,000 as a result.

“We re-established our performing arts season,”

— California Center for the Arts, Escondido executive director Jerry Van Leeuwen

Melissa Etheridge came to town on Nov. 6, playing the only North County venue large enough for such a major act, the California Center for the Arts, Escondido.

The center has had a troubled financial past. However, nobody can deny it has been an artistic and entertainment success.

As good as the music and fun might be, Center leadership continues to grapple with a perplexing dilemma. While first-class acts obviously appeal to a lot of people, actually getting them to Escondido has been a problem despite its central location and easily accessibility by freeway and public transportation.

The Center’s fall season kicked off Sept. 23 with the San Francisco comedy competition. Following that, Vince Gill and then Etheridge are coming in to get people off the road and into the 1,500-seat concert hall. The Center jus announced a Lyle Lovett and John Hiatt joint concert for Nov. 8.

An Academy Award and GRAMMY winning artist, Etheridge, took the stage to perform songs from her new album, “This is Me,” as well as some of her greatest hits like “Come to My Window,” “I’m The Only One,” and “I Want To Come Over”.

Known for her soulful, smoky vocals, confessional lyrics, and riveting stage presence, Etherdige shared personal stories about her remarkable journey through life and the inspiration behind some of her most beloved songs.

Melissa Etheridge's tour bus at California Center for the Arts, Escondido n Nov. 8

Melissa Etheridge’s tour bus at California Center for the Arts, Escondido n Nov. 8

Center officials are counting on the likes of Etheridge to bring in the public from near and far.

“Someone came from Del Mar, and I was chatting with them at a reception,” Center executive director Jerry Van Leeuwen said to KPBS recently.

They said, “‘You know, it’s not quite as far as I thought it was and we even checked to see if there’s any hotels along the way,” Van Leeuwen continued. “So, it may be not as far as you think it is and we think it’s always worth the trek,”

The Center attracted 300,000 last year. It generated $5 million in revenue with 10 sold out shows and all the other attractions and events. A lot is going on there for sure.

The arts complex also includes a conference center that provides a source of revenue to help support its arts and education programs.

“The goal is to be the Balboa Park of North County,” Van Leeuwen said to KPBS. “We want people to come here to have their festivals and personal celebrations, their weddings; we’ve had weddings on this very stage and great events here. We had NerdCon here a couple weeks ago; the board has said we want to get a different audience on the campus and we achieved it that day.”

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