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

6 Apr

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.


2 Responses to “Uncertainty in Civic Amenities: Carmel’s Center for the Performing Arts”

  1. Mike Drescher April 7, 2014 at 8:13 am #

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

  2. Valerie Merriam April 7, 2014 at 11:39 am #

    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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