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Classic increase

SPAC adds facility fee to some tickets

$1 charge to apply to classical performances only

Friday, February 15, 2013
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Classic increase


Saratoga Performing Arts Center at Saratoga Spa State Park on Friday, February 15, 2013.
Photographer: Patrick Dodson
Saratoga Performing Arts Center at Saratoga Spa State Park on Friday, February 15, 2013.

— Classical performances at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center will have a new $1 facility fee tacked on to ticket prices for the foreseeable future.

Tickets for performances such as the Philadelphia Orchestra and New York City Ballet will include the fee, which is expected to raise between $70,000 to $80,000 this year for maintaining the grounds and amphitheater, according to SPAC President and Executive Director Marcia White. The fee will not be included on Live Nation shows, such as those featuring the Dave Matthews Band or Phish.

The decision to include the fee, White said, stemmed from an analysis of current ticket prices and fees, a review of practices at other venues and an assessment of the needs at the almost 50-year-old facility.

“It is an investment for us,” she said of the fee, which will go into a fund solely for maintenance.

More than a quarter-million dollars was spent on equipment, maintenance and repair costs in 2011, according to a recent tax filing.

In 2012, the ballet attendance was 35,399 and the orchestra attendance was 34,318. If those numbers, which were down from 2011, remain steady, SPAC should generate at least $69,000.

The fee will not be used for cleaning up the grounds after Live Nation shows. Live Nation, which has invested $1.5 million in projects at SPAC since it began a partnership there, is responsible for costs associated with its shows and for cleaning up afterwards.

“SPAC deliberated for months about whether to institute this fee. … This fee will enable SPAC to address facility needs now, before they become insurmountable,” White wrote in a recent letter informing SPAC members about the fee.

She said the letter was part of SPAC’s transparency efforts, with plans to advertise the fees in its season brochure and on its website. White noted that the cost will not simply be folded into the ticket price, which might hide the increase.

“We didn’t want to bury the fee,” she explained.

A facility fee is not unique to other outdoor or local venues. The Times Union Center in downtown Albany, which is owned by Albany County, has a $3 facility fee for concerts and a $2 fee for family shows and sporting events. At Tanglewood, an open air amphitheater in the Berkshires, ticket prices include a $1 grounds maintenance fee, which is bumped up to $2 for popular concerts. A facility fee can be up to $3 per ticket at the Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts in Manhattan.

The additional charge is not the only fee that patrons at SPAC pay. Box office service fees raised almost $80,000 in 2011, according to a tax filing.

Based on that same filing for 2011, White was paid about $270,000 that year and Chief Financial Officer Richard Geary made about $138,000.

White said she anticipates the facility fee will be permanent.

The additional revenue comes at an important time for SPAC, as it is starting preparations for its 50th anniversary celebration in three years.

“We want to be ready for that,” White said.

 
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