Saratoga Springs

SPAC projects $1.3 million deficit due to COVID-19 cancellations

Saratoga Performing Arts Center May
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Saratoga Performing Arts Center May

Categories: Entertainment, Life & Arts, News, Saratoga County

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Due to recent program cancellations, the Saratoga Performing Arts Center has a financially tough year ahead, with a projected $1.3 million deficit, a SPAC official said at its virtual board meeting on Thursday.

“SPAC expects to lose more than $5 million in budgeted revenues from the loss of ticket sales, concessions, rental of the theater and fundraising events,” said SPAC’s CEO and president, Elizabeth Sobol. “Overall, SPAC projects a potential deficit of as much as $1.3 million due to the effects of the COVID-19 crisis.”

In the last few months, the performing arts venue has canceled its classical summer season, including New the York City Ballet and Philadelphia Orchestra performances, and nearly all summer 2020 concerts brought in by Live Nation, which rents space from SPAC, have been canceled or postponed.

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Jay Lafond, SPAC’s chief financial officer, said the cancellations were a “crippling blow” to its finances.

“Our original 2020 budget reflected $5.4 million in revenues from ticket sales, rentals of the theater, concessions, and fundraising events. That figure is now projected to be less than $200,000,” Lafond said.

In previous years, ticket sales have made up less than 45 percent of SPAC’s annual operating budget, which is around $10 million. SPAC usually has to raise around half of its budget through fundraising each year, and while some people have been donating rather than refunding their classical season tickets, SPAC is still projected to fall short. 

“We are focused on a full return next year,” Sobol said. “However, the level of support that SPAC receives now will be critical to that return. The fact is that due to the necessities of cancellations because of COVID-19, in 2020 virtually all of our earned income or 50 percent of our budget will simply go away, with no chance of replenishment until sometime in 2021,” Sobol said.

At the board meeting, SPAC also discussed the restoration and construction of its new concessions facilities, which are expected to be completed by the end of June.  

The $9.5 million project, called “The Pines,” includes a covered pavilion and a 4,000-square-foot building with indoor and outdoor gathering space, which will allow SPAC to hold programming all year long for the first time.

Despite the program cancellations, SPAC has set up virtual offerings, like its Learning Library and the upcoming “Freihofer’s Jazz Fest Stay Home Sessions,” which run from June 26-28. SPAC is looking into other virtual offerings as well as other program ideas for this summer. 

“Although the amphitheater is projected to remain dark all summer, this does not mean that the SPAC campus will remain empty and silent,” Sobol said. “The one timely and valuable resource SPAC has plenty of is outdoor space. We have a myriad of plans in place and are ready to walk through whatever doors may be open to us this summer to provide art, inspiration and support for our beloved community.” 

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Looking ahead to next season, Sobol said it’s too early to say what measures might have to be put in place to safely hold events again. 

“The notion of a complete return to normalcy is most likely an elusive, if not misguided, notion, but we are hopeful,” Sobol said.

There are, however, tentative dates scheduled for the classical summer residencies. They are as follows: the New York City Ballet on July 13-17, 2021; the Philadelphia Orchestra on Aug. 4-21, 2021; and the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in August 2021, exact dates to be determined. For more information visit spac.org

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