Arts center to receive $5.5 million subsidy


The Center for the Performing Arts needs a government subsidy that more than doubles what it received last year. But the Center’s leadership says staff and board members are “cranking up” fundraising efforts to reduce this dependency.

Interim President and CEO Frank Basile told Current last week that the Center requested and will receive $5.5 million from the city of Carmel to cover operating expenses and obligations for its 2011-2012 season. The Center received $2 million this year to help cover expenses and was expected to need about $4 million to cover its shortfalls in 2012.

But unlike previous years, the current subsidy will not come from residential tax dollars in the city’s general fund. Mayor Jim Brainard confirmed in September that the Center’s 2012 subsidy would be paid for using commercial tax revenue, specifically tax increment finance dollars.

Because the Carmel Redevelopment Commission is prohibited from granting funds directly to the nonprofit organization that controls the arts center, it has been giving money to the nonprofit Carmel City Center Community Development Corporation, which then provides a grant to the Center.

Basile said the 4CDC gave the center $1 million in October.

But the Center is trying to greatly reduce its dependency on the city, Basile said. Ticket sales have been consistently high, he said, bringing in an average of $50,000 each week and on pace to reach the Center’s goal of $4 million.

“But frankly, I’m just not sure how much more room we have for ticket sales,” Basile said.

To increase revenue, the Center’s development staff, board members and the interim CEO himself have been “cranking up” efforts to sell sponsorships and attract more corporate and private gifts.

And they’ve been successful of late, Basile said. The Center is working to finalize a recent $1 million gift for the naming rights of one of the Palladium boxes. Three other boxes have been sold, though some are priced at $500,000.

Now, the task at hand is to sell the numerous remaining naming options, Basile said.

“We aren’t trying to hustle people into buying a box; we’re trying to get them to buy into our mission,” he said. “They buy into the mission and one of the perks is to name their contributions.”

The most noticeable naming opportunity is still available: $25 million to put a family or business name on the 1,600-seat Palladium. A contribution of that size comes with some flexibility in the naming, Basile said.

Also available are the east and west lobbies at $1 million each, $2 million for the Founder’s Room, which is used for meetings and entertaining guests, the Center’s box office for $750,000, the green room at $500,000, $750,000 for the Conductor’s Suite backstage, $500,000 for the permanent Great American Songbook exhibit of the Michael Feinstein Great American Songbook Initiative and $5 million for the naming rights to the 200-seat Studio Theater, among others.

“We don’t have a name yet for the toilet area but we’re willing to sell everything,” Basile joked.

The most recent contribution – the $1 million box – came from an individual donor from out of state, which Basile said is encouraging.

“This particular prospect came in through The Initiative,” he said. “We’re now going after prospects who are not only Center attendees but also people who are fans of the Initiative.”

The Center has had some recent success in attracting gift from private contributors but Basile said the development staff’s attention now is more focused on securing larger corporate sponsorships and creating an endowment.

“What we want to do with this fundraising is reduce our dependency on the government,” he said.

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