Saratoga County

SPAC ends year in the black

Declining attendance at summer Saratoga Performing Arts Center shows didn’t keep the organization fr

Declining attendance at summer Saratoga Performing Arts Center shows didn’t keep the organization from ending the year in the black, officials said.

Despite slow ticket sales, SPAC was able to increase fundraising and cut costs this year, including by paying less to host the Philadelphia Orchestra, said President Marcia White.

Next year SPAC plans to offer more promotions for out-of-towners with Amtrak and local hotels, as well as reach young people with e-mail and text message marketing.

“If we don’t focus on young people, we’re going to be in big trouble,” Shane Williams-Ness, director of development and marketing, said Friday at the SPAC board’s quarterly meeting.

A SPAC Facebook group started this year now has about 1,500 members, she noted.

“West Side Story” also was a popular ballet, attracting young adults who don’t often come to classical programs, Williams-Ness said.

And for the even younger set, American Girls night, a first-time promotion this year that paired the popular doll series with the ballet, brought 800 girls to SPAC.

It’s the fourth year in a row that SPAC has been in the black, after about 15 years of deficits.

“It really was a tremendous accomplishment to get it together,” said Richard Geary, chief financial officer.

The National Museum of Dance also broke even this year, Geary said.

But it wasn’t an easy year to sell the arts, with the economy worsening and wet weather discouraging people who might decide at the last minute to come sit on the lawn.

Overall attendance at SPAC’s classical shows — including the orchestra, New York City Ballet, Freihofer Jazz Festival, Saratoga Chamber Music Festival and Extended Season — dropped 9 percent.

As usual, New York City Ballet ticket sales covered only half of the arts center’s costs to host the storied ballet, and less than half for the orchestra.

SPAC sold $1.2 million in tickets for the ballet but paid $2.3 million. It paid $2 million for the Philadelphia Orchestra but reaped only $742,000, in large part because of the August rains.

“The disappointing thing with the orchestra is we’re now covering 37 percent of our costs with our ticket sales,” Geary said.

A boost in attendance at Live Nation rock concerts qualified SPAC for a $65,000 attendance bonus in addition to the $1 million annual rent it gets from the concert promoter, Geary said.

SPAC and Live Nation are negotiating a new contract, as their current agreement expires at the end of the year, White said.

SPAC officials know next year will be tough as well.

“When the economy goes bad, your attendance is likely to go down, your endowment increase goes down and your contribution goes down,” said William Dake, chairman of the board.

SPAC plans to start next season with renovated bathrooms and new lights and sound system.

Bids have been received, but not officially accepted, for the lights and sound system, and work is expected to start next month, said board member John Nigro.

A contract for the bathrooms is expected to be awarded in November.

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