You can quit holding your breath people, no seriously, you can. It has finally happened, the news that you have all been waiting ages for…VenuWorks hired a replacement for ex-Executive Director Wolf Larson. You can read all about it at the Star Tribune and Thisweek. Yes folks, Mr. Jon Elbaum the prior General Manager of the Bridge View Center in Middle-of-Nowhere, IA (with a population way less than 1/2 of Burnsville) will be taking over the Burnsville Performing Arts Center.
Well, being that I’m always one to go above and beyond the ridiculously pointless press releases that Thisweek and the Star Tribune seem to like to print right away, I thought I’d take a look at the Bridge View Center in Ottumwa, IA and give us a little background on whether or not the new Burnsville PAC Executive Director will do any better than the old one.
1. The Bridge View Center is operated by VenuWorks. Instead of hiring from outside the company, and making some serious changes to the BPAC operation, they decided to hire from within. With people, such as myself, already calling for VenuWorks to be removed as the management company of the Burnsville Performing Arts Center you would think they’d look outside their organization to bring something new.
2. The Bridge View Center is primarily billed as an exposition center.
They have a 655 seat theater but as you can see from their calendar data*, they seem to have the same problem the BPAC does which is no events scheduled for the summer–at all. In addition there are 0 events listed as “theater productions” . So while their calendar is “full”, it’s full of events that probably won’t be coming to the BPAC.
* note: this has not been vetted but it’s close–you can view their actual event calendar here
3. The Bridge View Center is dirt cheap compared to the Burnsville Performing Arts Center
According to their website, their rental rate for their theater is $500 (commercial) and $300 (non-commercial). While the BPAC doesn’t offer its rates online, because they want to pretend that they have some sort of competitive advantage by hiding it, they charge $1,500 for rent (on average) plus additional fees which bring the total for any number of shows which took place in 2009 to an average of about $4,000 (low: $1,200, high: $8800).
So basically what this boils down to is: they’re bringing in someone whose experience has been with a completely different type of facility which has very little in the way of concerts or theater productions scheduled and they did nothing to shake it up–at all. You really have to wonder if the speculation around a possible conflict of interest involving VenuWorks and their desire to purchase the Chanhassen Dinner Theater which was recently visited, again, this time by a Star Tribune staffer is really true or if everyone is just overreacting–as the VenuWorks staff has said time and time again.
So I suppose the question is this: is VenuWorks really trying here or is this just more of the same? Based on the below average lineup at a completely different type of facility, do you believe that this new executive director is going to be able to turn the Burnsville Performing Arts Center around from the moment he arrives or are we going to hear a lot more of the, “oh, we just need more time,” lines?
Whatever you have to say about VenuWorks’ choice to replace Wolf Larson as Executive Director of the BPAC go ahead and comment on as I’d love to hear what you have to say!