A crucial stage
by Jody Reese
Hereís a great idea:
Create a much-needed performing arts center in Manchester. Hereís a bad
idea: After building it, turn the keys over to a professional management
Why is this a bad idea?
Thereís no question
that Manchester needs a modern performing arts facility. If done
correctly ó the right size, the right expectations, the right downtown
location ó it would be the next step in the city's continued
Itís such a good idea
that thereís already movement behind the scenes to line up the support
and financing to make the project happen. Thatís fine.
But if planners donít
use caution at this stage, we may end up with something that would be a
big problem for the city, even before one brick is put into place.
Some backers of a
performing arts center in Manchester believe the way to go is to copy
the Verizon Arena: get the thing built, then turn it over to
professional management to handle all the bookings and operating deals,
with the emphasis on making money.
If thatís the approach,
what Manchester is likely to get is a large facility of maybe 5,000
seats. Itíll have to be that big to support the big touring show
companies and other acts that can't use the Verizon.
And once we open the
doors to this, the effect will be hard on the cityís fragile performing
arts community, which already must scramble to sell tickets and support
What, for instance,
will happen to the Palaceís program of shows and events, which help pay
the bills to keep the historic downtown theater open? Hard to say, but
touring companies with slick shows paying regular visits to Manchester
will siphon off a huge chunk of the Palaceís hard-won audience.
And if the Palace
suffers, Manchester loses a key community facility used by dozens of
local groups and organizations. And in many ways, weíd be less of a city
So is this what we want
in a performing arts center? A large-sized facility for bringing in the
big commercial shows, making money for a management company, and
threatening the health of local performing arts organizations?
Or do we want a center
that enhances what weíve already got here? One that adds to Manchester's
cultural landscape instead of possibly steamrolling it?
Itís something to
think about before we go too far with the behind-the-scenes plans.