Saratoga County

SPAC officials expect to break even for season

SPAC officials expect the center to break even for 2011 and are looking to build toward 2012 by enco

SPAC officials expect the center to break even for 2011 and are looking to build toward 2012 by encouraging amphitheater attendance, expanding the use of social media and technology and pushing for contributions from large donors, those who give $10,000 or more.

At the Saratoga Performing Arts Center’s Board of Directors meeting on Thursday, members discussed finances, assessed operations from the past months and planned for the future. Finances remain a delicate balance, according to comments.

“For 2011 our season was very strong based on excellent programming and exceptional weather, and because of that … for the seventh consecutive season we will break even with our budget,” said SPAC President and Executive Director Marcia White.

As of Aug. 31, SPAC had earned $6.6 million and spent $6.3 million for the year. During September it saw substantial earnings, with a profit of about $220,000 from the Wine & Food and Fall Ferrari Festival. These gains, though, were more than offset by about a 10 percent decline in SPAC’s investments, to a total of around $4 million.

Richard Geary, chief financial officer, said his reading is that SPAC would just barely break even for 2011. “You’ve all heard the phrase, ‘by the hair of your chinny chin chin,’ ” he said, describing how narrowly they avoided a deficit.

SPAC Chairman Bill Dake described their finances as encouraging, especially in comparison to larger venues. “We’re very fortunate to be in the financial position we are in,” he said. “We are obviously in a 1 percent economy when a lot of 5 percent promises were made.” Dake noted that revenue from events promoter Live Nation was down this year and that income from the Wine & Food event was up.

Fundraising focused on getting members to upgrade their memberships; board member Linda Toohey said there was a small shift of patron-level members upgrading to the gold level. She said they hope to further capitalize on that next year in lieu of raising rates or primarily attracting new members.

Overall, SPAC was down $200,000 in revenue from memberships; going forward they plan to target donors of at least $10,000 to cover this gap.

A large part of the meeting revolved around new technology, like the sign on Route 50, mobile applications and their evolving website. Dake suggested that some of the changes relating to technology might make some people uncomfortable, but argued that they were necessary for survival.

Evidence of the changing role of technology was evident in 38 percent of classical tickets being sold online, an increase in website visits, more referrals to their website from Facebook and some of the website’s features being available on mobile devices.

For the 2012 season, White predicted that they would see a decrease in corporate sponsorship and more involvement by private donors of all levels. “I think the pendulum is going to swing. It went from major donors … to corporate and I have a feeling it will start to go back this season,” she said.

Next season SPAC is looking forward to three weeks of the Philadelphia Orchestra and White said early memberships are up. They’re planning a variety of upgrades to the facilities, including a face lift to the Route 50 entrance and improvements to the popular patron tent area.

Some of the challenges for 2012 include personalized training of volunteers, attracting people off the lawn and into the amphitheater and new marketing to drive up the popularity of the modern dance offering.

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