Coral Springs Center for the Arts: White Elephant or No Business in Show Business?

by Howard Melamed

August 22 2001 First Draft

Last time I wrote about the Coral Springs Center for the  Arts, CITY CENTRE ,I hit a nerve at the city. They lost their heads. They  threatened to sue me for speaking out against the government. This article is not going to be any different

I will state what I said last year. The Coral Springs Center for the  Arts (AKA Coral Springs City Center) is a White Elephant. It will never make any money and it will only be a source of expenses for the Citizens of Coral Springs. The current financial report from the City Manager’s office shows exactly what the situation is.

The City Manager at the Commissioner Meeting of August 21 stated that the Center has a shortfall in expected revenues. The shortfall is said to occur because the  Center incurred losses at various shows throughout the year.  They expected revenues through the 3rd quarter to be $233,500 from show income. Instead they only obtained $111,153. However they did make money on other items such as food, service charges and renting out the facility but spent more money on operations, including a trip sending the General Manager, Director of Marketing and the Sales manager to the International Association of Assembly Managers conference? As the City manager indicated, the total loss that they incurred to date is only $27,396. Or is it?

The budget is for the fiscal year to date and only reflects 3/4 of the picture.  Once again the mysterious City Subsidy appears as a new line item called “Operations Assistance”. This is another word for shelling out money to make the picture look good.  With the current trend in place, The City (or us taxpayers) put $565,000 worth of our money into this White Elephant.  The real loss will be well over $ 600,000. There is still no accounting for the interest paid on bonds that went to build the place and there is no provision for depreciation in their statements.

If this were a company, and the shareholders put money into it, there is no way that anyone would allow this money to be considered as revenue.  it really is deficit funding, but that has other bad implications and no one wants to call it that.  But the Management company, PFM was clever enough to negotiate to have the subsidy considered as revenue in their contract with the city. That way there profit sharing would be guaranteed and it would be based on a higher number.

We haven’t even talked about what the Museum located in the center is costing us.  Click here to see the panoramic view of the Museum as shown on the city’s website. Maybe you will get the impression that I had. That is, the place is empty. It would make a great basketball court, though.

The question is, do we want to continue to pay for something that most of us don’t use?. A venue of 1100 seats is too big for small shows and too small for big shows. Sunrise Musical Theatre is 3500 seats and they run the place economically.  An 1100 seat theatre is not a winning proposition and certainly some “fat” that we can trim off the city budget.

Yes, there will be some that say we need a performing arts building in our fair city and others that say that they had a good time at the show in the building, but this is not a serious venture to say the least. I am not certain how many taxpayers really would be willing to keep this venture going if they knew it was costing us $600,000 every year, and that instead of tickets sales going up… they are going down.

So why is it failing? Here are a few good reasons:

1)  Management: This people that are running the show are missing the boat.  The website doesn’t even have listing of shows from now until the end of the year. Is it possible that there is nothing going on? Click on  http://www.coralspringscenterforthearts.com/ to see for yourself.

2) Signage: The Sign on Coral Springs Drive is useless when it comes to a proper “Marquis” , This sign displays a small message every few seconds and does not show all shows playing and coming attractions.  The movie theatres in town have a nice sign on their building  that displays the shows. Any serious venture needs this.  Besides for you to see all the messages that are on this electronic board you would have to park your car on Coral Springs Drive for at least 5 minutes. Some Advertising.  Who thought of this one?

3) Size of Venue: 1100 seat theatres are really difficult to make it. They are too small for the big shows and too big for the small shows.  Any serious building requires at least 2300 seats. Unless you are on Broadway in New York, and Coral Springs Drive is far from Broadway.  The Sunrise Musical Theatre is a serious venture with at least 3500 seats.

4) Public Support: In case you haven’t noticed, the place rarely sells out.  It takes a top performer to sell out any place and the top performers are too expensive for this size theatre.   The current mix of productions are too costly for this type of location given the level of public support.

5) Location: This venue is for locals only. No one in Miami, Fort Lauderdale or Palm Beach really considers this a serious destination.

6) Owners are not Managers:  The City has hired a management company to manage the affairs of the theatre.  They are managing quite well with our $565,000 that we give them to be considered as revenue.  That is a lot of seats that we are paying for where no one is sitting in.  So far it is the management company that has the best deal in town.

So what do we do with this white elephant?

I have a few suggestions:

  1. We could renovate it and turn it in to the fire departments headquarters.  They are planning to build one anyways for a cost of $5.5 million in the future. The cost of renovation would not exceed $2 million. This would save us money!
  2. If we are to run it as a show place, let’s get a proper marquis on the building, and operate it through a board of directors.  It has been my experience that a 1456 seat theatre can survive only if it produces its own shows, and is supported by the community.
  3. Sell the building.  I am certain that we can get at least $2,000,000 for the place.  Let someone else would operate it and produce show in it.  We could even give them a helping hand by giving them an interest free mortgage. We would still save the $470,000 + that it is costing us  each year.
  4. Keep the building and fire the management company. The center is making more money as a rental facility than as a performing arts center. Facility Rental Income is double that of the Net Show Income.  To operate the facility as a rental place you do not need the management company, nor the need to subsidize the facility to the tune of $565,000.
  5. Tear it down and build another basketball building. At least that place is full all the time and the citizens are getting their moneys’ worth.

There is an old saying in the industry.  There is no business like show business.  Here in Coral Springs the saying should be changed to : We have No Business being in Show Business.

comments?: citycenter@coralsprings.com

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My husband and I have just finished reading what you think are all the important reasons for getting rid of the Center of the Arts in Coral Springs. Sorry, we must disagree with you.

If you do not attend the shows on a regular basis then we feel sorry for you as we find our evenings there to be very enjoyable. As a matter of fact, we hold season tickets to the Broadway Series, the Children’s Series [ for our grand-daughter ] and also buy tickets for many of the other shows presented. We have never come away disappointed. In addition, the seating is much more comfortable than at the Broward Center plus it’s much more convenient to get to.

To turn the building into a basketball facility would be totally ridiculous. Have you really paid attention to how busy the one we already have is at this time? Often times we have noticed the parking lot almost totally empty. Therefor, why have two.

We believe this community needs a place where cultural events are held. The youth of today need to be exposed to the shows they offer. Have you ever been there on a day when children from the local schools are there? Being a retired teacher I know how very important it is that the children are brought to such shows. Often as not this will be their only visit to the theatre as the young parents of today do not share their time with their children like they should. Seems “making money” is all their interested in; let someone else take care of their kids. Thank God the schools pick up the slack!

If the building needs to be bigger to attract the shows you feel are necessary to make money, then make improvements….somehow enlarge. I’m sure there’s a way if brilliant minds, such as yours, were involved. After all, you think you have all the answers. So, fix it, but don’t do away with it.There are many of us here in Coral Springs who look forward to the programs available, and every year we meet more and more people who are now attending for the first time and have enjoyed themselves too.

And, by the way………get your facts straight. The centre has seating for 1,456 people, not 1,100. If you are incorrect on this, how many things in your letter are incorrect as well? Why are we to believe you?

Come on, get a life! Have you nothing better to do? Let those of us that enjoy the show continue to enjoy them. As for you, stay away if you wish, we really won’t miss you. – The Millers

Author: HelpMeHoward