CAPC agrees to create 10-year plan for The Auditorium

Friday, September 23, 2016

The Eureka Springs City Advertising and Promotion Commission will have its hands full over the next few months.

The commission agreed on Sept. 14 to create a 10-year plan outlining how the proposed 1-percent sales tax will affect The Auditorium. The proposed tax would be split between the city's water and sewer and The Auditorium, with 25 percent going toward The Auditorium and 75 percent going toward the city's water and sewer infrastructure.

Commissioner James DeVito said Alderman David Mitchell expressed concern about the proposed tax at the city council's last meeting, saying Mitchell was worried about the percentage of the tax allocated toward The Auditorium. DeVito said Mitchell asked that The Auditorium be removed from the proposed tax. This could be problematic, DeVito said.

"The ballots have already been set and you can't take something off the ballot," DeVito said. "It kind of snowballed from there to the point where I am asking the A&P to come up with a five- to 10-year plan based on The Auditorium quarter-center tax passing."

Mayor Butch Berry agreed that the commission should work on the plan, DeVito added.

"I told council not to expect it by the next meeting, because the election's not until November anyway, so we should have some time to do it," DeVito said.

He continued, saying Mitchell reported receiving calls from concerned citizens about The Auditorium being part of the plan for the proposed tax. DeVito said he was surprised by this. He said thought The Auditorium was one of the reasons citizens would vote for the proposed tax.

"The calls I get are, 'There's not enough stuff going on in The Auditorium,' that people want to see things going on in The Auditorium," he said.

If the proposed tax passes, DeVito suggested that the CAPC get serious about bringing more shows to The Auditorium. The $110,000 the CAPC uses to run The Auditorium, DeVito said, could be used to improve the programing there. He pointed out that the proposed tax could bring between $250,000 and $300,000 to The Auditorium per year.

"That $110,000 to start the year off could be a sum of money that if we're successful with the shows, we could do more shows," DeVito said. "That seems to me like a logical step. It enhances the profile of The Auditorium. We could direct our advertising resources to shore up those shows so they do bring people to down and do provide profit for The Auditorium."

Commissioner Charles Ragsdell expressed concern about bringing big shows to The Auditorium. He remembered when the CAPC brought Ray Charles to The Auditorium, saying the city lost money on that show.

"I do want to go through the financials on the years we did that, because I think the record shows we had our two largest declines. I do question any true long-term benefit those shows gave us," Ragsdell said. "Is there really a budget for us to basically take and convert money ... to entertainment money?"

Chairman Ken Ketelsen said he thought the commission should at least try to bring bigger acts to The Auditorium.

"I think it's worthy of risk. History doesn't always repeat itself," Ketelsen said.

Commissioner Damon Henke agreed.

"I do think it's time for us to try again. We definitely have a risk there and an opportunity to lose our butt, but on the other hand ...we owe it to everybody," Henke said.

He suggested that the commission look at its budget and figure out which acts are affordable.

"Take the $110,000, figure out what level performer that is, spend some significant money and then calculate it out so we think it's going to be a break-even scenario," Henke said, addressing Ragsdell. "If it's not, we've proven what you've said in a modern area."

"It's already been proven," Ragsdell responded.

Commissioner Susan Harman said she supports bringing bigger acts to The Auditorium, too. Harman recalled when The Magic Men performed at The Auditorium earlier this year, saying that show sold out.

"If you get the right show in there, I think there are opportunities for us to make money there," Harman said.

"I think we owe it to the community," Ketelsen agreed. "If this should come and these dollars free up, why not?"

Harman asked the commission to consider creating two 10-year plans, one if the proposed tax passes and one if it does not.

"I think the priority is to do the one if it passes, because that deadline is coming up," DeVito said. "Council wants that as soon as possible. Then, we could develop the doomsday scenario if it doesn't pass."

Ragsdell said he'd like to hear from Jeff Danos, chairman of The Auditorium Committee. That committee isn't meeting anymore, Ragsdell said, but it would be good for the commission to get some input from the people who were on it. Commissioner Terry McClung agreed, saying he wants to create a comprehensive plan.

"You have to look at the building as far as what needs to be done physically, cosmetically. There's the supports underneath that need to be addressed. There's a lot of stuff," McClung said. "We can project some figures that we can come up with as far as hard-driven numbers. That's not going to be easy, but I think we can ballpark some things like that."

Ketelsen said the commission might need a special workshop to discuss the 10-year plan. The commission's next workshop, he said, will focus on the budget. Henke moved to have a workshop for the 10-year plan at 5 p.m. before the commission's next meeting, and the commissioners agreed to do so.

That workshop is scheduled for 5 p.m. Wednesday, Oct. 12, at City Hall.

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