Boch Family Adds Its Name To Boston's Theater Scene

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The Wang Theatre on Tremont Street (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
The Wang Theatre on Tremont Street (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

The family behind the multibillion-dollar car dealership business Boch Enterprises has purchased the naming rights to the Citi Performing Arts Center in Boston. That entity operates the historic Wang and Shubert theaters on Tremont Street.

Come Nov. 1 there will be three new names in the city’s cultural landscape: the Shubert Theatre at the Boch Center, the Wang Theatre at the Boch Center — both of which will be under the umbrella name, the Boch Center.

After unveiling a new red-and-white logo in the Wang’s ornate marble lobby, Ernie Boch Jr. explained why he has a soft spot for the venue.

"Back in the day before the internet, before you could get tickets, before I had any connections, I used to sleep on the sidewalk in front of the ticket booth,” he recalled. "It was common back then, it was the only way to get tickets.”

Boch was getting those tickets to see the rock band Deep Purple. The lanky, long-haired, third-generation car mogul is a guitarist himself. But for him this new naming deal is much more than a nostalgia trip.

Ten years ago Boch created the Music Drives Us foundation, a nonprofit that gives grants for music education, and he said Thursday he was attracted to the free community outreach programs at the Citi Performing Arts Center when the rock stars aren’t on stage.

"If that part of the puzzle wasn’t here I don’t know if I’d be doing it because I don’t know if it would’ve drawn me to it," Boch said.

The Shubert Theatre on Tremont Street (Jesse Costa/WBUR)
The Shubert Theatre on Tremont Street (Jesse Costa/WBUR)

Citi Performing Arts Center CEO Josiah Spaulding called the new relationship with Boch a match made in heaven.

“We both believe that creative arts of any kind can change people’s lives,” Spaulding said.

Since 2006 Spaulding has been working with Citigroup, but last year the global corporation announced it would end its sponsorship. Spaulding recounted speaking with dozens of national and international corporations about buying the naming rights. In the end he went local with the Bochs.

“If you can put together a successful business, and put together a family that’s willing to give back and is local, and put someone together who has a foundation called the Music Drives Us foundation for 10 years, and we have our education program,” Spaulding said, “you put all that in the mix, it was an obvious choice. And so it was my job to convince Ernie to do it and we’re thrilled that the Boch family has done it.”

Like Boch Jr., Spaulding plays guitar and comes from a prominent Boston family. Spaulding also went to shows at the Wang in the 1970s — including Cat Stevens, who’s coincidentally playing at the Wang this weekend. Boch was in the audience that night so many years ago, too.

The new partners wouldn’t disclose the terms of their sponsorship deal, but called it one that's "significant, multi-year, long-term'" and "that costs more than a buck."

This news comes after a tumultuous year in Boston’s performing arts venue landscape. The Boston Lyric Opera broke ties with the Shubert Theatre, and the futures of the Huntington and Colonial theaters were uncertain.

Boch hopes this new alliance will be a shot in the arm.

“I think the collaboration will revitalize a situation that Boston needs. The arts, they’re flourishing,” he said, “but they could be better.”

This segment aired on September 15, 2016.


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Andrea Shea Correspondent, Arts & Culture
Andrea Shea is a correspondent for WBUR's arts & culture reporter.



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