March 7, 2013

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In what could be viewed as a last-ditch effort to save her job and prove she is actually attempting to rescue the Memorial Auditorium (and the Tivoli Theatre, to a lesser extent) from a sea of red ink, Education, Arts & Culture Department Administrator Missy Crutchfield recently rolled out a herd of patriots to burnish her brainchild of offering for sale naming rights to the twin venues to “appropriate” corporate businesses that aren’t really naming rights at all.

Corporate names would added in front of the names of the venues in print and promotional materials, but not attached to the actual buildings, as we understand the plan.

Billed and promoted as a public meeting to discuss the future of the venues, the affair was mostly an opportunity for veterans to reminisce and crazily suggest that selling or leasing the Auditorium would be akin to the U.S. Government selling the Vietnam Veterans War Memorial. As City Council members droned on about the two theaters existing as city-owned community jewels that were never intended to turn a profit, Crutchfield told WDEF-TV that selling naming rights might just cure all that ails the twin, taxpayer-supported venues, which can drain city coffers to the tune of as much as $1 million a year.

Nice idea, but the braintrust never attempted to address the elephant in the room—that the Auditorium and Tivoli are poorly managed and booked; that cash-only bars and broken ATM machines hamper modern patrons’ convenience; that alcohol needs to be allowed inside both; and that parking can be nightmare around each. Now that elephant is about to squat on Crutchfield’s desk. Her fans cry foul at criticism, but the stakes are high.

Playing the Veteran Card is a smokescreen. Nobody—nobody—is refusing to acknowledge the sacrifices made by veterans in service to our country; to suggest that selling or leasing a building dedicated in their honor is a blasphemous slap in the face is preposterous. Indeed, what cheek would be slapped were the Auditorium be renamed the Rick Davis Gold & Diamonds Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Auditorium (as Bill Colrus joked on Nooga.com)?

City Councilman Jack Benson conveniently absolved himself from the argument, citing politics surrounding the support of the sale or lease of the two venues by candidates for council, then made odd metaphors about art making the city’s other aging structures look pretty simply by existing—adding that we need a few, but not too many. WTF?

The bottom line is the EAC’s “Founding Administrator,” as Crutchfield refers to herself, and the city are each culpable in this easily fixable mess. The Auditorium and Tivoli are indeed grand, historic buildings—but they are also the city’s only two non-commercial concert and arts venues capable of hosting crowds of more than 1,000 people, and many more in the Auditorium’s case. In this context, they are both venues and monuments—to the arts. Leasing them to a professional management agency would improve both, bring the city valuable revenue and give the people what they so desperately desire.

Patrons also clearly want to enjoy a drink in their seats. Dropping the silly ban on alcohol within both venues is just a late 20th-century thing to do and is also simple common sense. A simple cleaning fee added to each ticket would assure maintenance and upkeep. Why is this so hard?

March 7, 2013

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