ROSWELL, Ga. (AP) _ Congress would support paying $170 million over the next decade to modernize the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, a national treasure that needs renovation, Newt Gingrich said Saturday.

``It's one of those rare national institutions, and we'll be talking about spending something on the order of 8 cents or 7 cents a person every year for the next 10 years,'' the House speaker, visiting a senior citizen's center in his district, told a reporter.

He said most Americans would think funding the renovation is a legitimate example of public support for the arts. The private sector pays for all performances, and maintenance costs come from the federal budget through the National Park Service.

``Even if you're like me and you're against the National Endowment for the Arts, the Kennedy Center is a different kind of thing,'' Gingrich said. ``It has a different standing as a national institute.'' He compared it to the Smithsonian Institution.

Gingrich first spoke of the renovation plans Thursday night at a concert by the National Symphony Orchestra to reopen the 26-year-old center's renovated Concert Hall. Its other major halls are the Eisenhower Theater and the Opera House.