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$165 million center for arts is no longer just a dream in N.J.

It seemed almost unattainable when it was proposed in 1987 - a major arts center in Newark, a city not generally known for its cultural attractions.

Ten years later, supporters are showing off the $165 million New Jersey Performing Arts Center and hope it will help boost revitalization of the city."For a while, there were no supporters whatsoever," said former Gov. Thomas Kean, who first announced plans to create the center. "People said we couldn't raise that much money and said it would never work in Newark.

"It is a dream that took a lot of work to have happen."

On the bill for the center's opening gala Saturday night was the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, the Alvin Ailey Dance Theater, the American Ballet Theater and the Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra, conducted by Wynton Marsalis.

The anchor of the building is the 2,750-seat Prudential Hall, named for the Newark-based insurance company that donated $6.5 million. There's also the 500-seat Victoria Theater, a restaurant, rehearsal space and a rotunda where the names of all donors will be displayed on the walls.

"This has the potential to put Newark on the map as a cultural center," said Cephus Bowles, general manager of WBGO, a Newark-based radio station that is one the nation's foremost jazz stations and one of the center's principal affiliates.