Uncertainty in Civic Amenities: Carmel’s Center for the Performing Arts

Today’s Indy Star featured a long article on the economics underlying Carmel’s Center for the Performing Arts (Carmel’s Center for Performing Arts plan vs. reality: miles apart). The story of the Center is a cautionary tale for all of us (very much including myself) who have supported large civic projects.

Some of the highlights:

  • The initial “sales pitch” and presentation of the Center projected a worst-case government operational subsidy of $309K/year became a $2.5M annual subsidy.
  • The initial concept of operations was that the Center would be a for-hire venue, with concert promoters bearing the risk and costs of show production. However, many supporters — including Mayor Jim Brainard — wanted the Center to be a venue for shows that went beyond those that are commercially viable (i.e. many classical concerts) that would help Carmel be more nationally competitive for high-end businesses and affluent workers (boosters compared the proposed Center to Carnegie Hall!)– and pushed the Center in that direction.
  • The mayor assured the community that a $40M endowment could be raised privately to support operations and enhancements. Unfortunately, the economic downturn occurred right in the middle of construction, and the endowment never materialized.
  • The Center faced a number of contractor disputes, including a recent $575K settlement with Bloomington contractor Crider & Crider.

All in all a must-read about the unanticipated risks and vagaries of large civic  projects.

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2 thoughts on “Uncertainty in Civic Amenities: Carmel’s Center for the Performing Arts

  1. All investment has some risk involved. The worst idea though is to keep doing the same and expect better results.

  2. Unfortunately, from the very beginning I thought this was grandiose and could never be maintained without huge subsidies. Doesn’t surprise me at all.

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