Since renowned Canadian musician Chantal Kreviazuk performed during its opening night on April 2, 2003, the E. A. Rawlinson Centre has had its ups and downs.
Capping its first decade of operation with one of their best years yet, general manager Darren McCaffery feels that the centre has finally hit its stride.
“We had the first year -- we hit it hard, and then we had a wonderful honeymoon for about two seasons, and then we kind of got into our stride where we had to sort of rebalance things,” he said.
Short-term sponsorships ended at the same time, the markets tanked and different city councils had varying ideas for the centre’s governing Prince Albert Arts Board, which led to a perceived communication problem between the city and the board.
“Now, we’ve repaired it all and we’re floating to our 10th anniversary season -- feeling pretty good,” McCaffery happily noted.
The latest Prince Albert Arts Board of directors is a motivated forward-thinking group, board chair Roxanne Dicke said.
“I’m extremely optimistic as we go,” she said. “We have a very active board – we’ve been meeting monthly and we’re committed to building a bright future for the centre.”
When it comes to perceived communication problems, Dicke points out a tight link between McCaffery, the board of directors and city administration, as well as a public Prince Albert Arts Board website that highlights all of their goings on, including finances.
Last year saw a handful of high-profile acts perform at the centre, including but not limited to Roy Clark, Creedence Clearwater Revisited, George Thorogood and the Destroyers, the Yardbirds and Dan Hill.
The centre’s partnership with Canadian Tire has enabled the bigger acts to come to Prince Albert, McCaffery said -- a partnership that continues, with The Beach Boys scheduled to perform the centre on May 1 and comedian Jason Alexander performing on June 3.
It’s amazing the centre can attract such world-class acts, Dicke said, adding that it’s equally important that local talent perform on the very same Olive and John G. Diefenbaker Theatre stage during the centre’s many community events.
In the centre’s unaudited year-end financial document for 2012, ticket sales brought in more than $308,000 -- a significant jump from the $188,000 they’d expected.
Although a much higher number, McCaffery notes that high-profile acts take in a much larger portion of ticket proceeds than smaller acts do.
But, he added, “It elevates our branding, and it elevates the excitement in the community, so we sell a lot of tickets to other concerts, as well.”
This number is also indicative of more people attending performances at the centre, with 2012 counting 111,158 patrons -- more than 22,000 of whom coming from outside the city.
From a financial perspective, although the unaudited financial document notes a surplus of more than $65,000, more expenses need to be accounted for.
However, when everything’s said and done, McCaffery notes that they’re still breaking even for the first time in six years.
The centre’s expenses decreased last year, mainly through an updated operating contract. The Canadian Tire partnership has helped boost sales significantly, and the centre seems to have created a good ratio of professional and community event days, McCaffery said.
“We’ve figured out an operating model that seems to work,” he said, adding that he’s optimistic that future years sport additional financial statements with a bottom line safely in the black.
But, he said, with this year’s surplus remaining within the three to six per cent mark of the overall budget, the centre remains in the “very volatile market of live entertainment.”
The four pillars to the centre’s success continue to be city funding, its contracted operating model for staff, corporate sponsorships, and most importantly, its strong group of volunteers, McCaffery said.
According to a year-end report by the city’s director of community services Greg Zeeben, volunteers clocking in 9,936 hours in 2012.
“It truly is a community facility, in all ways and forms,” McCaffery said.
Of their many volunteers, a handful stick out as being instrumental in bringing the centre to where it is today, including its volunteer boards of directors.
Former board chair Mitchell Holash, former Mayor Jim Scarrow and Coun. Martin Ring are the first to come to McCaffery’s mind, joining the ranks of many others, such as Malcolm Jenkins, who have helped the centre out through its rocky times.
“They worked behind the scenes, they worked weekly -- sometimes daily, sometimes writing personal cheques to the centre just to get us through hard times,” McCaffery said. “They should be given a lot of credit for (our) coming out the other side the way we are.”
The city’s elected officials will consider funding to external agencies within the next month, with Mayor Greg Dionne having proposed a funding freeze until they can be reviewed, excluding those who already have an agreement with the city for increases.
As always, the Daily Herald will follow the budgetary process and what it means for the Prince Albert Arts Board and E. A. Rawlinson Centre.
The Prince Albert Arts Board will hold a public annual general meeting on March 27, the details of which will be posted on their website, www.princealbertartsboard.ca.