Saturday, September 26, 2009

SPAC report for 2009, another raise for the President?

Saratoga Performing Arts Center to close fifth consecutive year in the black
Published: Saturday, September 26, 2009

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The Saratogian

SARATOGA SPRINGS — Mirroring a strong local economy, Saratoga Performing Arts Center on Friday reported positive financial results from this summer’s classical and Live Nation events.

SPAC expects to realize a modest profit at year’s end, its fifth year in a row of operating in the black.

New York City Ballet average attendance went up 24 percent per performance, during its shortened two-week season, while Philadelphia Orchestra saw crowds increase 14 percent overall, thanks largely to this year’s better weather.

“We are very happy to be profitable and a little ahead of last year, especially since most of the arts industry is experiencing double-digit decreases,” Chairman William Dake said. “We are finding that Saratoga overall, SPAC, the track are

succeeding when many places are having a lot of problems. People are gravitating to our success. Obama didn’t come here for no reason.”

Dake was among the local business leaders on hand for President Barack Obama’s visit to Hudson Valley Community College on Monday, where he drew attention to the region’s high-tech economic development.

SPAC also reported an 8 percent drop in membership income, mainly from people who sign up for less expensive memberships to get better ticket prices, Dake said.

SPAC unveiled a new $50,000 membership option called Heritage Donor, designed for business leaders, philanthropists and arts patrons, which comes with a range of exclusive benefits. In 2005, several donors committed $500,000 each to SPAC — $100,000 per year for five years — to help the center get back on track financially following a period of declining revenues marked by inner management turmoil. The last installment of those donations expires this year, so SPAC needs to find new private sources, especially with government funding uncertain during difficult economic times.

Ticket income only covers

45 percent of classical programming costs. The rest must be made up by gifts and sponsorships.

“The need for private support is not only ongoing, but in many ways is even more urgent than it was five years ago,” SPAC President Marcia White said. “The pressures of the current economy and market fluctuations have decreased disposable income for people across the economic spectrum. This new environment necessitates that SPAC, like many organizations, transition away from reliance on a few major donors towards a broader base of support.”

SPAC has not reached formal agreements yet with the ballet or orchestra for 2010.

Dake said figures were up, too, for Live Nation rock and pop concerts. There were 23 such events this year compared to 17 last summer. Donna Eichmyer, of Live Nation, said the firm has a policy of not releasing attendance figures. However, two Dave Matthews Band concerts and a Phish concert were sell-outs.

SPAC and Live Nation, which books popular music events, have reached tentative agreement on a new contract, but the deal has yet to be finalized.

Dake attributed SPAC’s 2009 success to increased cooperation, partnership and promotion with other groups and organizations in the area. For example, musician Marvin Hamlisch made an appearance at Saratoga Race Course last month and SPAC’s Wine & Food Festival was held in conjunction with a Ferrari rally.

Likewise, SPAC offered patrons a variety of special promotions from free ice cream to fireworks and an American Girl Night, because valued-minded people look for any extra attraction they can get in today’s economy. “These secondary activities tend to catch their interest,” Dake said.

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

Sambam wrote on Sep 26, 2009 7:34 AM:

" So Dake wants people to buy $50,000 membership option that he is calling Heritage Donors.
Why not call them what they are Marcia White donors. With her her salary of $245,000 (the last reported figure) not including benefits it will take six Heritage Donors just to feather Marcia nest.


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Friday, September 18, 2009

Closing Day of Victoria Pool, Labor Day 2009, 293 more Days until Victoria Pool opens in 2010.

unfunded Spa Park Master plan meeting at Gideon, dogs, butterflys and frisbees?

Public sounds off on Saratoga Spa State Park plan
Updated: Thursday, September 17, 2009 10:51 PM EDT

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SARATOGA SPRINGS -- Saratoga Spa State Park is many things to many people — home to a venue for the performing arts, a place to strap on some snowshoes or cross-country skis or a retreat where mineral waters calm the soul.

Such diversity is both a blessing and a challenge for administrators at the 2,800-acre park, who must strike a balance between preserving the park’s delicate ecosystem and opening the historic grounds to throngs of visitors each year.

To help, officials recently put together a 144-page master plan — in part built on suggestions culled from the public — that spells out exactly how those dual purposes can be achieved in the coming years.

On Thursday night at the Gideon Putnam Hotel, members of the public had their first chance to vocally sound off on what the document envisioned for the park, built up under President Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1920s and ’30s as a health spa centered around the mineral springs that pepper the grounds.

Around two dozen people showed at the hotel, located within the park, and most had generally favorable opinions of the ambitions that have been laid out.

That is, except for the dog park.

The plan, introduced about three weeks ago by officials with the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation & Historic Preservation, calls for an area off Crescent Street to be fenced in for use by dog owners — a change for those who now normally let their pets roam free.

"If you get 10, 15, 20 dogs into the little area that they’re talking about it’s going to be a mess," said Michael James, who takes his 10-week-old black lab to the park to socialize. "I just don’t get how they think they’re going to fit everyone in there."

The suggestion came about because officials want to protect nearby populations of the endangered Karner Blue Butterfly that live in the area.

But many dog owners said they’d never seen the butterfly there despite years of taking their dogs to the site, and that their animals are under control regardless.

"This whole thing is predicated on some supposition that the butterflies are declining because of the dogs, but I just don’t think that’s true," said Dales Ordes, a Ballston Spa resident who has visited the park with three different dogs over the last 20 years.

Alane Ball Chinian, the regional director for the park’s office, said a compromise on the issue could likely be found before the plan is ultimately adopted.

"It’s not hard. We just have to have the habitat areas remain the habitat areas, that’s all," she said after the hour-long public hearing finished.

Besides the angst over the dog park proposal, Chinian said the plan has otherwise warmly received. Few comments have been received, but Chinian said that was likely an indication that people agreed with most of the ideas put forward.

"No news is good news," she said.

There are around 30 priorities officials would like to see implemented as money becomes available, though officials cautioned some may take time to implement given the state’s current financial constraints.

Among the ideas laid out in the master plan are creating a new visitor’s center and mineral water museum at the Lincoln Bathhouse on South Broadway, where State Parks Police are now headquartered, expanding the trail network, improving the tennis courts and creating a nine-hole Frisbee golf course near the Peerless Pool.

Beyond the capital improvements that have been outlined, officials say the plan is going to serve as a guide map for environmental conservation in the years to come.

Erosion control along Geyser Creek, an expansion of reduced mowing areas, the creation of a bird conservation area and the implementation of an invasive species plan are among the ideas for improving the park’s habitat.

Saratoga Spa State Park was among 11 of the state’s 213 parks chosen last year to create a master plan. This is the first time such a document has been produced for the Saratoga Springs park.

Comments can be submitted in writing through Oct. 9 to be considered before the plan’s final adoption.

Wednesday, September 09, 2009

Editorial, gazette, 9/6/09-get a person with knowledge of the ARTS to run SPAC, what a good idea!!

Editorial: Another, better, season for Saratoga
Sunday, September 6, 2009

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When Rachel Alexandra and the other horses get into their trailers and leave Monday, Saratoga will have completed its usual summer trifecta: ballet, orchestra, racing. Though all could have done better, they did well enough considering the economy and the rain. That’s good news for the region, and particularly those who value the New York City Ballet and Philadelphia Orchestra and worry about their future at the Saratoga Performing Arts Center.

Average attendance at the ballet was up, a marked contrast to previous years when it dropped. But the increase was likely because SPAC management and the ballet, in a move designed to save $800,000, cut the season from three weeks to two. That created, in effect, a shortage of supply and an increase in demand. But at least the people came. If they continue to come with a three-week season, which should be tried again soon (if not next year, the one after that), then the audience for ballet will have stabilized and even grown.

Numbers for the orchestra were similarly encouraging. Attendance was up 14 percent over 2008, but 2008 was a terrible year. A better gauge is to compare 2009 with 2007, and then attendance was still down 2 percent. Not great, but with the 2009 increases, definitely headed in the right direction.

The next question after attendance, and not unrelated to it, is who is going to lead SPAC in the future? This is the last year of a five-year contract for Executive Director Marcia White, a former Joe Bruno aide who had no professional experience in the arts before being given the SPAC position after Herb Chesbrough was forced out in 2004.

We have nothing against White, and can’t say she has done a bad job. But we can say her salary of $245,000 (the last reported figure) is too high, especially for her qualifications. With that kind of money, and probably less (considering the attractiveness and prestige of SPAC), an arts leader with national stature, or the creativity of Proctors’ Philip Morris, might be brought in, which could improve programming, marketing and fund raising. SPAC’s board should at least see what’s out there before committing to White again.