News Column

Bradenton warms up to the idea of leasing auditorium to DaVinci organizers

July 30, 2014

By Mark Young, The Bradenton Herald



July 30--BRADENTON -- The brilliance of Leonardo DaVinci's creations are being packed away as organizers of the DaVinci Machines Exhibit end a successful eight-month run at the Bradenton Auditorium.

Averaging between 6,000-8,000 visitors a month, curator Mark Rodgers said the event equaled its numbers in Denver, where the population is 2.8 million.

The proof may be found in the city of Bradenton's bottom line.

According to City Clerk Carl Callahan, the city profited this fiscal year for the first time since the auditorium began to be rented to the general public. Callahan said Wednesday that the city operated the auditorium at an average annual loss of $80,000-$100,000.

"We average about $80,000 in rental fees, but we have a $170,000 operating cost," said Callahan. "We've gone from losing $100,000 last year to making about $30,000."

Callahan said that was largely due to the city's minimal expenses associated with the exhibit.

The organizers are offering the same type of self-sufficiency in a proposal for a long-term lease with the city to bring in other exhibits, concerts and Las Vegas-style shows.

Bradenton officials have only just started discussing the proposal, but it is being received favorably.

"I think it turned out to be a good deal," said Callahan, who noted that if the city does consider the proposal, "It's to their benefit to bring in better acts and performances to get the people in."

The initial proposal was to offer the city a percentage of proceeds from ticket sales for the events Rodgers brings to the auditorium. Callahan said as discussions move forward, he would be more comfortable in determining a flat fee, strictly for budgetary reasons, so the city can gauge what revenue might be expected.

Vice Mayor Bemis Smith likes the idea but wants all options researched for comparison.

"As long as we've been here, we've lost money on the auditorium," he said. "What I would be interested in seeing is what costs would be if we didn't do anything there. If we just shut it down."

Callahan said the city would still lose about $20,000 a year just to keep an empty building air-conditioned.

The other concern is the city's long-term plan to eventually vacate the city hall property in favor of private riverfront development. There is no timetable, but Callahan said he wouldn't want to see the city enter into a long-term contract that it couldn't get out of should an opportunity present itself.

Rodgers said he wants to work with the city and isn't looking for a perpetual lease. He has not heard from the city yet on the proposal he offered in June.

"If they get back to me, we can consider whatever proposal they are wanting to present," said Rodgers. "We would love to work with the city. We love Bradenton."Ward 2 Councilman Gene Brown said the DaVinci exhibit increased attendance to the South Florida Museum and said while numbers are not in yet, imagines it increased revenue for local businesses.

Rodgers agreed, saying since the Bradenton Herald first reported the proposal after a copy of an email to Mayor Wayne Poston was obtained, downtown merchants have approached him saying they hope the proposal moves forward.

"If everybody likes it and sees it as a positive thing, I think it will go forward," said Rodgers. "Right now, we are just at wait and see and hopefully they'll be in contact with us soon. Bradenton has been a wonderful stop and an unbelievable experience. We have been at are creative height down here and hope to continue that."

Rodgers said in the meantime, he is looking for another exhibit to bring to the auditorium at a later date. While nothing is certain yet, he is looking at the possibility of a Rembrandt or Living Dinosaurs exhibit.

Mark Young, Herald urban affairs reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7041 or follow him on Twitter@urbanmark2014.

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(c)2014 The Bradenton Herald (Bradenton, Fla.)

Visit The Bradenton Herald (Bradenton, Fla.) at www.bradenton.com

Distributed by MCT Information Services


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Source: Bradenton Herald (FL)


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