News Column

Mayo Civic Center officials ban orchestra over debt

May 23, 2014

By RACHEL LEINGANG, Post-Bulletin, Rochester, Minn.



May 23--The Rochester Symphony Orchestra and Chorale owes more than $15,000 to the Mayo Civic Center, and the group will no longer be allowed to perform there until they make some progress on the debt, according to the Mayo Civic Center Commission.

The balance goes back to concerts in 2012 and 2013, before the orchestra decided to leave the civic center and perform at different area venues. When making the change, the orchestra cited cost-effectiveness and dissatisfaction with the building.

The orchestra did have a concert at the civic center in March with the University of Minnesota jazz band. The orchestra paid $3,500 up front for that concert, but theamount was simply subtracted from the orchestra's outstanding balance, MCC managing director Andy Krogstad said.

Among the charges is nearly $1,300 in wine, a total of 54 bottles, for the March concert (the wine was rolled into ticket costs at certain price levels).

"We recognize the history and the contributions to the community and the value the symphony brings, we don't want to discount that," said John Beltz, chairman of the Mayo Civic Center Commission. "But we do have some responsibilities to the community. We have to begin to be consistent and not show unnecessary or undue favoritism."

The civic center has already paid for the cost of the concerts -- the utilities, the staffing, the wine.

"My concern is these are not costs that we can eat," commissioner Jerrie Hayes said. "These bills had to be paid, hard costs were footed by us. It's not something we can absorb."

Orchestra officials did not return phone calls seeking comment.

The Mayo Civic Center did receive a payment of $200 earlier this year, with a letter that opened with "Dear vendor," Krogstad said. That payment and the $3,500 prepayment for the March concert were the only money the civic center has seen from the orchestra since their 2012-2013 concerts.

The orchestra currently has a date held at the civic center for the annual Honk, Squeak, Scratch, Boom educational event for January 2015. The orchestra has also asked about scheduling a concert date in March 2015, Krogstad said.

But before the civic center will consider adding future dates, the Rochester Symphony Orchestra & Chorale needs to pay at least 50 percent of its outstanding balance. They orchestra would have to prepay in full for any future events, according to the commission's guidelines.

There have been other outstanding balances from other customers in the past, but those groups usually don't try to book the space again, Krogstad said.

"It's certainly a little more delicate," he said. "We have a good working relationship with the orchestra. It's really not any ill will there, but we can't continue to carry the debt."

Typically, if a group hasn't paid, the civic center will consult with the city attorney on how to proceed, Krogstad said. They don't usually send bills to collection, as they've always been able to work out payment plans.

This marks the first time that Mayo Civic Center staff members have asked the commission for guidance on payments, according to Beltz. Showing fairness and consistency is the main goal with sanctioning the orchestra, he said.

"This would be, quite frankly, something we would address with any entity that's this far in arrears," Beltz said. "We look forward to a long relationship. We just need to reset the financial relationship."

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Source: Post-Bulletin (Rochester, MN)