New performing arts centers present distinct challenges

Posted on: September 14, 2011

In Wednesday’s (9/14) Wall Street Journal, Barbara Jepson writes, “The $326 million Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts by architect Moshe Safdie opens on Friday in Kansas City, Mo., with a program showcasing its three residents: the Kansas City Symphony, Lyric Opera of Kansas City, and Kansas City Ballet. That event follows last week’s unveiling of the $268 million Maison Symphonique de Montréal designed by architect Jack Diamond for the Montreal Symphony Orchestra, now giving its first subscription concerts under music director Kent Nagano. … But overall, the cultural construction boom in North America has slowed. … A number of the centers experienced cost overruns, saddling their owners with significant bank debt. And they have often proved expensive to operate. ‘The new halls generate more red ink than the old ones,’ says former arts consultant Adrian Ellis, executive director of Jazz at Lincoln Center. … One of the most efficiently managed public-private partnerships is the $124 million Schermerhorn Symphony Center, built exclusively for the Nashville Symphony Orchestra. The center was completed in 2006 on time and on budget. Annual operating costs proved about $500,000 more than anticipated, but by trimming expenses and increasing rental rates, the orchestra has balanced its operating budget every year since the Schermerhorn opened, says symphony president Alan Valentine, except for a $1 million operating deficit in its initial season.”

Posted September 14, 2011