The Rainbow Ballroom in Downtown Fresno will be listed for sale at $4 million this week. Image via Rainbow Ballroom Facebook page
Written by Edward Smith
An iconic Downtown Fresno event venue is being listed for sale.
The 80-year-old Rainbow Ballroom will be listed for sale Wednesday for just under $4 million, according to Jared Ennis, commercial agent with KW Commercial.
After 32 years of operating the live venue that played host to a variety of acts from Banda to Mariachi to punk, hip-hop and rock and roll, the Valvidia family — who owns the location — is ready to retire, said Ennis.
The owners hope to sell to another event operator, but will go with whatever buyer makes sense, said Ennis.
The 18,700 square foot property comes with two parking lots and a Type 47 liquor license, which allows for beer, wine and liquor to be sold. The Rainbow Ballroom also has its own bar, multiple large restrooms and a second story with offices. The dance floor sits atop what used to be the largest indoor pool in the Central Valley and in the basement, one can still see where it used to be. It’s had upgrades to the bar recently and newer paint.
“It’s truly a turnkey deal,” said Ennis.
What sets this property apart, however, is its flexibility, said Ennis. Because of the large stage, open floor plan and no fixed seating, it can host a number of different uses, making it perfect for not only theaters and churches, but also events such as weddings, luncheons or art showings.
Throughout the pandemic, the pool of buyers for venues has changed. Before social distancing orders, the buyers for a location such as the Rainbow Ballroom would have been 90% experienced venue operators.
More recently, the interested buyers have mostly been churches, Ennis said.
“It just goes back to show the theme post-Covid,” said Ennis. “A lot of the venue operators don’t have the capability to buy properties in this time.”
Ennis also sold Hardy’s Theater at 944 Van Ness St. in Downtown Fresno this month. The Valvidia family also owned that property and it went to a church. The Tower Theater is currently in escrow to Adventure Church. Over the six months it was listed, only one venue operator showed interest in the Tower Theatre, but it had multiple inquiries from churches, Ennis said.
Because of the property’s “flexibility” Ennis doesn’t anticipate the Rainbow Ballroom being on the market for very long.
According to an online history of the Rainbow Ballroom, it originally opened as the Rainbow Natatorium in 1918, featuring the giant indoor swimming pool. A few years later after a fire, the pool was filled in and covered with a dance floor.
It quickly became a premier location for live music, and thrived during the post-war Big Band era when musicians such as Count Basie would perform. Other artists that have played the Rainbow Ballroom include Janis Joplin, Santana and Fleetwood Mac. In the ‘90s it drew rock performers including Blink-182 and Bad Religion.
Most recently it was a frequent stop for acts including rappers Tyler, The Creator and ASAP Ferg and many Spanish-language artists.
Gabriel Dillard contributed to this report.