Park Theatre Group is one step closer to become managers of Park Theatre once renovation is complete. McMinnville officials tentatively voted to accept its proposal and a contract is being generated.
“I make a motion we accept Park Theatre Group’s proposal, pending them coming up with a suitable contract,” said Alderman Rick Barnes, during a joint meeting of Finance Committee and Building and Grounds Committee.
The motion passed unanimously by aldermen Ben Newman, chairman, Ken Smith, Mike Neal and Barnes.
Officials met on July 30 to review the proposal. In attendance were most of the members of the Park Theatre Group Board of Directors — Sara Covert, David Marttala, Steve Phillips, Cindy Rogers, Diane Stanley and Sandra Haynes.
Leading to the decision were questions being posed by officials and answers given by board members:
• Who would be filling the position as executive director?
“Our plan is to use Steve Phillips as executive director,” said Marttala. “At that point, Steve would step down from the board and become an employee of the group.”
• What would be the salary of the executive director?
“We don’t have it broken down to that detail,” said Marttala. “We are showing a payroll of $75,000. That’s inclusive of other things.”
According to Phillips, the payroll amount also includes the cost for an as needed performance director and part-time employees for concessions, ticket booth, accounting, custodial duties, etc.
• What experience does Phillips have in operating a facility, such as Park Theatre?
“I came to this area as a semi-retired businessman,” said Phillips. “I’m a numbers man. I make businesses work, that’s what I do. My musical background would not qualify me to run an art center by any stretch of the imagination.”
Phillips will be seeking the advice of Robert Boyer. Boyer, the individual selected to be the performance director, is the director of the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga’s Patten Performances Series for the last eight years and the current executive director of Tennessee Presenters.
• A level one ticket, which would be for a nationally recognized act, will range from $20 to $35 and a level two ticket, which would be for a local and regional recognized act, will range from $15 to $25. If ticket sales are off, will those prices be reduced?
“In a new business venture presumably you have done enough research to bring it into the market place with things at an appropriate price,” said Phillips. “We feel these prices are appropriate.”
Marttala adds, “That’s one advantage of partnering with a nonprofit. We can make those changes. If $35 is too high for the top level one ticket, we can drop it to $30. The city’s process to lower the prices might take two months or more.”
• Will an in-house talent group be used to produce plays?
“Absolutely,” said Haynes.
Along with a drama club for children and adults, the group is also planning workshops in areas such as makeup and costume design, says Covert.
“We want to offer workshops, like teaching children, and adults as well, about being a makeup artist or costume design,” Covert said. “If a fiddler comes in, we might have a workshop for them to teach children.”
• Renovation of Park Theatre will cost approximately $2 million, with annual debt service payments projected to be $120,000 a year. In the proposal by Park Theatre Group, rent paid by the group to the city would be $1 a year. Could additional funds be set aside to compensate city taxpayers?
Phillips says accounts can be opened to separate revenue into different categories, including an account for revenue that the group would not need for continued operation and the city could access to help pay debt service.
“If there is an excess over operations in the first year, second year, or third year, then that money can be funneled back to the city through an excess of operating account,” Phillips said.
The group projects total expenses of $173,351 the first year, $208,851 the second year and $234,351 the third year. It currently has $71,000 in actual funds and $150,000 in pledged money from the Industrial Development Board.
The group can come up with an additional $100,000 through fundraising during the year it will take to renovate the theatre, says Phillips.
“When an agreement is made with the city, Park Theatre Group can go back into a fundraising mode,” he said. “It is not beyond the concept of the plan to raise $100,000 in the construction year.”
According to Haynes, verbal commitments have been made with the group and the city.
“We have a number of individuals who wanted to give us money all along, but they were not sure this was actually going to happen,” she said.
Acceptance in committee is the first step toward allowing Park Theatre Group control of the facility. A contract between the city and Park Theatre Group must be approved by the Tennessee Comptrollers Office, as well as the full board.
“If the city decides to out source the management of Park Theatre to a third party, such as Park Theatre Group, the Comptrollers must sign off on the agreement,” said Attorney Tim Pirtle, legal counsel for the city of McMinnville.