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SPAC efforts hit all the right notes

SPAC efforts hit all the right notes

Two days after it got up and running, the online ticketing system at Saratoga Performing Arts Center

Two days after it got up and running, the online ticketing system at Saratoga Performing Arts Center has blown away officials’ expectations.

One customer even called the box office because ordering tickets on SPAC’s website was so easy he thought he must be missing something, said Richard Geary, SPAC chief financial officer.

“You start hearing those things and you know it’s really going to make a difference,” Geary said.

Four hundred tickets have been sold online since Sunday, Geary said Wednesday morning at the board meeting following SPAC’s annual membership meeting at the Hall of Springs.

“We had people buy tickets at one o’clock in the morning online last night,” he said.

“I think you will find our ticketing system very user-friendly,” said William Dake, president of the SPAC board.

SPAC unveiled the new online system Sunday and opened the box office on Monday. Previously, SPAC used Ticketmaster for purchases for its classical season, but it broke with the ticket sales giant this year to develop its own system, which will give the organization more knowledge about people’s buying habits and also reduce extra ticket fees for patrons.

Tickets are available for all of the classical shows at www.spac.org.

Tickets to Live Nation rock concerts are booked through Live Nation, not SPAC’s new online system.

Revamping the online ticketing system is a major improvement over the previous system that people complained was confusing and difficult to use.

There are still changes to be made at SPAC, Dake said.

“We have to deal with our sound system at some point. The need to shift over to high definition may be relevant,” he said.

SPAC held its annual members meeting Wednesday morning and reported good news for the organization, including the fact that it ended the year in the black last year for the fifth year in a row.

“We had a very positive season last year,” Dake said.

The organization ended the year with a $209,083 surplus, compared to $72,470 in 2008.

SPAC officials said they are fortunate, as many arts organizations saw a sharp dropoff in ticket sales last year because of the economic recession.

At SPAC, ticket sales dropped slightly, from $2.67 million in 2008 to $2.59 million in 2009.

“We had been successful enough that we look quite unique by comparison,” Dake said.

This year saw SPAC get its first-ever season sponsor, HSBC.

SPAC officials also announced headlining hosts for the Saratoga Wine & Food and Fall Ferrari Festival, which takes place from Sept. 10-12.

Lidia Bastianich, who has an Emmy-nominated cooking show on PBS, and Andrea Zagato, head of the Italian car design company Zagato, famous for developing Alfa Romeos and other fast, sleek cars, will co-chair the event.

Patrons will see brand new restrooms at the amphitheater this summer, said John Nigro, a board member who heads the buildings committee. The bathrooms were gutted in the fall and were just finished a few weeks ago, Nigro said. They got new tile floors, partitions and fixtures. A patio outside with concrete benches will be a nearby resting place for audience members.

More and more SPAC classical performances are paired with extras to draw more attendees, such as Alec Baldwin narrating “Peter and the Wolf” during the Philadelphia Orchestra season.

SPAC President Marcia White said she would like someday for orchestra patrons to be able to send questions to musicians on their mobile phones during the performance and then get answers during intermissions.

Also at Wednesday’s meeting, Linda Toohey was newly elected to the SPAC board for a three-year term, replacing retiring member Dan Hogarty.

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