Tacoma's Broadway Center for the Performing Arts is holding a raffle with an unusually large grand prize: a $1 million condo or $600,000 cash — one of the largest raffles ever held in the state and a first for an arts organization here.

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Raffles to benefit arts organizations are hardly unusual.

But rarely is the prize this big: a million-dollar condo or $600,000 in cash.

That’s the grand prize in a raffle to benefit Tacoma’s Broadway Center for the Performing Arts. Even an early-bird drawing Sunday (Feb. 14), for those who’ve entered by 5 p.m., features a substantial prize: $10,000.

Such big-ticket raffles are new for arts organizations in this state, though arts groups in other states have held them for about five years now, said David Fischer, executive director of the Broadway Center, which manages three historic theaters owned by the city of Tacoma.

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It also presents visiting performing artists such as Dance Theatre of Harlem and the Indigo Girls, and is home to several local arts organizations, including Tacoma City Ballet and Tacoma Opera.

The raffle is not necessarily to make money for the Broadway Center, which is doing relatively well, given the recession. It’s more about getting the center’s name out and drawing business to Tacoma.

Fischer said he got the idea for the ambitious raffle when he was in California and saw that an arts organization in San Francisco did something similar. He thought of the condo angle after reading a magazine article that listed Tacoma as No. 1 among housing markets poised to rebound.

The Commencement Group, a development company, agreed to offer up a view unit at The Commencement Condominiums in Tacoma that has 2 bedrooms, 2 bathrooms and a den.

The grand-prize winner can choose it or the $600,000 cash — provided the center sells at least 17,000 tickets, at $99 each. Ticket-sale proceeds would be used for the cash prize or to pay Commencement for the condo.

If Broadway Center doesn’t sell that many tickets, the grand-prize winner will receive 50 percent of the net proceeds from the raffle — with a guarantee of at least $25,000.

About 900 tickets have been sold so far.

In addition to the grand-prize drawing on June 26, two early-bird drawings of $10,000 each will be awarded — the one on Valentine’s Day and the other on tax day, April 15.

The outsize prize package required special permission from the Washington State Gambling Commission, which usually has a $40,000 prize limit.

The center also was able to take advantage of a change in state law last year that raised the maximum price of a raffle ticket from $25 to $100.

The center hopes to make $800,000 from the raffle if it can sell 17,000 tickets — though it says that wasn’t the main reason it’s holding it. Broadway Center logged a budget surplus in 2007 and relatively small shortfalls the past two years, Fischer said.

Rather, the raffle is about “raising our brand,” he said. “It’s building new relationships with ticket buyers. It’s helping put a focus on Tacoma and enjoying the arts. … And if we make money out of it, hallelujah.”

Janet I. Tu: 206-464-2272 or jtu@seattletimes.com

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