Monday, September 24, 2007

SPAC renovations delayed by legislature

Panel: SPAC's renovation plans face delay
Funding needed quickly if work is to be complete by next summer, board says

By STEVE BARNES, Senior writer Click byline for more stories by writer. First published: Saturday, September 22, 2007
COLONIE -- The next phase of renovations at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center, originally planned to be completed by next summer, will have to be postponed if state money promised for the project is not made available within the next few weeks, SPAC's board of directors learned Friday.
"The funding is tied up," John Nigro told fellow board members during the governing body's fall meeting at the Desmond Hotel. At a board meeting earlier this year, Nigro said he was "definitely expecting favorable news" about a state OK on a request of $2.1 million for a complete renovation of the exterior of SPAC's amphitheater. It would complement an interior overhaul unveiled at the beginning of the 2007 season.
Unless the funds are freed up before Oct. 15, Nigro told the board, "the project will not be complete by May of next year."
A six-month impasse has left parts of the state budget unresolved, including capital projects.
In more positive news, SPAC expects a $100,000 surplus for the third straight year, after a decade and a half of running deficits of about $500,000 annually.
"All in all, we're in very good shape," Rick Geary, SPAC's chief financial officer, told the board. He said SPAC shows increases over last year in a variety of financial columns including income, assets and investments; SPAC's endowment is $4.1 million, up $600,000 from a year ago, due mostly to gains from annual returns averaging 14 percent, Geary said.
Attendance and sales revenue for the classical season -- which includes the Philadelphia Orchestra, Freihofer's Jazz Festival, the New York City Ballet and the Saratoga Chamber Music Festival -- increased this summer, with attendance rising 8 percent and income increasing 13 percent over 2006.
The orchestra, jazz festival and chamber seasons showed clear growth. Ballet attendance was marginally up from last year, when there were three fewer performances than in 2007; but it had shrunk by 21 percent when compared to 2005, the most recent year in which the ballet gave a full season of 21 performances.
The ballet and orchestra seasons each lost about $1 million, as has long been the case. City Ballet's residency costs $110,000 per performance to present; the orchestra, which performs less frequently, costs $163,000 per concert night. Ticket sales cover about 50 percent of SPAC's costs, with the remainder made up by fundraising.
Steve Barnes can be reached at 454-5489 or by e-mail at
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