City officials will not establish a new department to operate Park Theatre once renovation is complete. It will be a division under the McMinnville Parks and Recreation Department.
On Tuesday night, McMinnville Mayor Jimmy Haley asked the board not to establish a new department to operate the facility.
“I would like to entertain a motion from a board member to defer action on Resolution 1915, and a motion to authorize the city recorder to resubmit our application to the state to reflect that the city of McMinnville will be owning, operating and managing the Park Theatre,” Haley said.
The resolution would have created a new department within the city, that being the Department of Culture, Arts, Heritage & Tourism, to oversee the day-to-day activities at the facility and satisfy the state’s requirement the facility remain under city control once complete.
Two weeks ago, the city announced its $2 million funding request submitted to the Tennessee Municipal League for renovation of Park Theatre was rejected because the city’s intent was to use taxpayer funds to renovate and hand the reins of the facility over to Park Theatre Group.
According to Haley, he has been in contact with Tennessee Municipal League representative Linda Mooningham and a new department is not necessary to satisfy the state.
“It does not matter, for financing purposes, what department the city uses to operate the building,” said Haley. “It just needs to be a city owned and operated facility. That will take away the nightmare of creating a new department and it can be put under Parks and Recreation as a management position.”
Vice Mayor Ben Newman made a motion to table the resolution. The motion passed 6-1. Haley, Newman and Aldermen Ken Smith, Jimmy Bonner, Rick Barnes, and Billy Wood voted in favor. Alderman Mike Neal voted against.
“My whole premise of backing the Park Theatre is that it would be run or managed by somebody else other than the city, kind of like the soccer fields,” said Neal. “A group asked us to give them a place for soccer and they would manage it. We did that. That has been my whole concept behind the Park. I don’t know if the city needs to be in the entertainment business.”
Keeping the facility in the city’s hands will increase the cost of running it, says Neal.
“With the soccer complex, we have saved taxpayers money by allowing a group to run it with volunteer labor,” he said. “The minimum number that I’m hearing to run Park Theatre for a year is around $300,000 and that’s not counting debt service which is another $220,000. We are looking at half a million a year to run it, if the city runs it. The debt service is 20 years.”
Neal has contacted Tennessee Municipal League and wants clarification on why the state is requiring the city to keep Park Theatre once complete, but other communities do not seem to be under the same restriction.
“I’ve heard of other cities that have turned the recreational facilities over to the YMCA to manage for them,” Neal said. “I saw on the news this week where Nashville is getting ready to build a multi-million dollar baseball park. It’s going to be financed with bonding and they are going to hand it over to a for-profit group, the Nashville Sounds. I want a little understanding on how this works.”
The city should know in the next four to six weeks if its second application for funding will be granted.