Thursday, May 14, 2009

SPAC losing members ever since benefits cut out 50% ticket discounts and NYCBallet cut to two weeks.

By PAUL POST, The Saratogian

SARATOGA SPRINGS —Byproducts of a negative economy include pent-up demand for entertainment and people taking closer-to-home vacations.

Saratoga Performing Arts Center is banking on such trends to produce positive results during a 2009 summer season that begins just nine days from now.

While touting SPAC’s relatively strong fiscal condition, officials Wednesday expressed concerned about the fate of New York City Ballet and Philadelphia Orchestra, both of which continue to suffer major attendance and financial losses.

"It’s critical that we go to these performances and get our friends to go," Treasurer Abe Lackman told the roughly 80 people gathered at SPAC’s annual membership meeting. "There is a trend here that is extremely worrisome."

Financial conditions have forced the ballet to cut its Saratoga residency from three to two weeks.

"The ballet loses over

$1 million when they’re up here," SPAC Chairman William Dake said. "It was their decision. They have such a serious financial position that they had to go ahead and cut it. I’m very concerned about the orchestra as well. They also have very severe financial difficulties."

Major banks and corporations that typically support the arts can no longer do so, at least not at past levels.

"History doesn’t mean much these days," Dake said. "We’re in a rapidly changing world."

The economy continues to impact all segments of the sports and entertainment industry almost daily. Major racetracks such as Churchill Downs and Del Mar have cut back their schedules, and empty seats at the new Yankee Stadium have been highly publicized since last month’s opening.

"NASCAR, the hottest thing in the world last year, is suffering these days," Dake said.

But he said SPAC’s location, population base and program flexibility puts it in a position to survive the current economic storm. Classical events have been expanded this year to include two modern dance companies. In the future, more such offerings or touring ballet companies might be added to complement New York City Ballet.

In addition, the annual Freihofer’s Jazz Festival along with pop and rock concerts help SPAC appeal to a variety of interest groups.

SPAC’s box office opened Sunday and preseason ticket sales, accounting for 20 percent of admissions revenue, appear strong, Chief Financial Officer Richard Geary said. "I think we’re going to be okay if we can get people to come this summer," he said.

The arts center realized its fourth straight year of finishing in the black in 2008. Signaling a mixed financial bag, however, Geary said 2009 memberships are 10 percent behind last year’s. SPAC expects to conduct a large direct-mail campaign soon to get more people on board.

"We really have to see, what does our audience want? How do we get it? And how do we get it for less?" SPAC President Marcia White said.

Four years ago, several parties made substantial multi-year gifts to SPAC, whose final installments are due this year. White said she continues to seek new private and business sponsorships. GlobalFoundries, the firm expected to build a computer chip plant in Malta, has already become a SPAC member and has expressed interest in further involvement, she said.

"On one hand we are in very, very good shape," Dake said. "On the other hand, it’s chaos out there. In these economic times you have to accept that everything’s on the table."

What SPAC did

Saratoga Performing Arts Center’s Board of Directors took action on the following items Wednesday at the Hall of Springs in Saratoga Spa State Park.

ä Elected — Carol Farmer, new board member. Farmer is the wife of noted thoroughbred horse owner Tracy Farmer. The couple has a summer home in Saratoga Springs. She is a noted philanthropist and supporter of the University of Kentucky, is on the board of Kentucky Children’s Hospital and co-chairs the new Chandler Hospital’s Art Committee.

She serves on the boards of the National Thoroughbred Retirement Foundation and Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. It’s hoped that Farmer’s membership will encourage other horse owners to become involved with SPAC, President Marcia White said.

ä Officers — Made the following appointments for 2009/10 – Honorary Chair Marylou Whitney; Chairman William Dake; Vice Chairman E. Stewart Jones; Secretary Ed Lewi; Treasurer Abe Lackman; President Marcia White.

ä Re-elected — Matthew Bender, John Gilbert, George Hearst, Lawrence King, Eleanor Mullaney, John Nigro, Arthur Roth were re-elected to new three-year terms on the board.

ä Announced — New "Stay Green" recycling campaign. SPAC’s more than 300,000 visitors will be encouraged to place recyclables in bins

located at strategic points around the grounds. This includes 70 bins for beverages and cardboard bins for the thousands of boxes brought to SPAC by vendors and concessionaires.

Upcoming events

Several programs are planned this month as part of SPAC’s extended season. They are:

ä May 23 – Boys and Girls Choir of Harlem Alumni


ä May 29 – Rachael Price.

ä May 30 – Arturo O’Farrill & The Afro Latin Jazz


ä For information call 584-9330 or see the Web site:

The following are comments from the readers. In no way do they represent the view of

kaiser soze wrote on May 14, 2009 10:52 AM:


This will turn out to be SPAC’S worst season ever. Marcia J. White continues to run the organization for her own benefit. She renewed the give away contract with live nation continues to use Ticketmaster instead of her own box office there bye giving more of SPAC’S income to the corporate giant.
And when the dust is settled and SPAC is in ruins she will blame everyone one but herself.

This is a nursing shortage Marcia go do what you do best.
But then again nurses don’t make 120000 or have a Manhattan apartment or a free BMW "

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catdeli wrote on May 14, 2009 12:42 PM:

" I began attending SPAC in 1973 for rock concerts and it was the best place to see a show. The lawn on a nice Summer night can't be beat. I saw many memorable shows there over the years but the restrictive policies and police state mindset of the place has turned me off to ever going again. Overeager security and a "get 'em in and treat 'em like cattle" operating style has resulted in a totally unenjoyable experience. Now that I am older, I have no time for this kind of treatment after I have paid my money to have a night of entertainment. Last times I went to a show was several years ago when security walked the aisles constantly for no discernable reason other than to distract from the performers onstage. Searches at the gate included removal of hats! I was expecting to have to drop trou next. A catle pen "Beer Garden" is humiliating and a nuisance. Not being able to take even water or soda into the amphitheater seats is an outrageous policy. Contrast this senario with that of a recent visit to Proctor's in Schenectady where we were actively encouraged to enjoy our night out with little restrictive conditions and were treated like the responsible adults that we are by the courteous staff. We will certainly return THERE. SPAC is poisoning itself from within and blaming the Capital District. We stay away for good reason. "

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one eyed fatman wrote on May 14, 2009 1:47 PM:

" Spac just doesn’t get it. We just saw the Moscow ballet in Proctors and paid 36 dollars for a great seat with no hidden service fees or handling fees. Spac wants the Ballet to fail so there will be more dates open for Live{lice} nation along with more money for perks for Marcia.

And just like George Bush who said You’re doing a hell of a job, Brownie in Hurricane Katrina's aftermath

Dake will come out and say You're doing a hell of a job,Marcia.

Too bad about the ballet leaving, "

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CP12345 wrote on May 14, 2009 2:16 PM:

" why is attendence down?
#1 - ridiculous prices for concert tickets and fees (considerably more than at the Syracuse NYS Fair or Darian Lake / Buffalo Outdoor Amplitheater)
#2- adults wanting to drink a beer are coralled like cattle into this fenced area to spend $10 a drink. Aside from ridiculous prices, you have no view of the stage while in here.
#3- the lawn area is just too crowded. The mall like food court and restrooms should have been built further back leaving more viewing / seating area on the lawn.
#4 - the food is bad- years ago there was a grill to buy from, or you just brought in a cooler with your own.

I grew up in Saratoga and SPAC was a blast. Not anymore. Lawn seats were under $30 and you were allowed to bring in coolers with drinks / food.

But lets not worry- the board of directors will spend countless hours and I am sure excess money on meetings / lunches / etc to try to figure out these common sense issues. "

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kaiser soze wrote on May 14, 2009 4:11 PM:

" When the Yankees seats went unsold they cut price is that a concept you can understand Dake? "

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