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City unfazed by show loss

Despite the loss of nearly $5,000 on the first of three summer concerts, The Dalles City Council and promoters remain optimistic about the program to provide visitors and residents with entertainment in a social setting.

On July 3, Dallas Smith, a rising country star, performed at the first concert underwritten by the city. The event took place at the Lewis & Clark Festival Park as part of the annual Independence Day festivities.

Concert promoters Randy Haines and Nolan Hare told teh council Monday that they were able to keep costs well below their initial conservative projection of $40,000, spending just $26,531, but ticket sales came in at $17,135, which fell nearly $9,400 short of what was needed to fully reimburse the city. The event sold 942 tickets, well below their goal of 2,700 – the venue holds 3,000 -- but just 300 to 400 tickets below a break-even point. “We thought that was pretty good,” Hare said.

During the council meeting, the promoters presented the city with a check for $4,500, a donation from their share of proceeds from vendors and sponsorships. That donation brought the city’s loss closer to $5,000.

“We felt if it did come up short, we’d contribute what we can to lighten the load for the city,” said Hare. “We’re confident in the next two shows.”

“I thought it (the first concert) was great,” said Mayor Steve Lawrence.

The next concert will be Aug. 13 to highlight the “Neon Classic Weekend” and feature the Sceptre Brothers, Ants in the Kitchen and Stone in Love, a Journey tribute band, all appearing at the park.

“We probably need 1,300 to 1,400 ticket sales to pay for the show. Projections are pretty good,” said Haines.

In April, The Dalles City Council voted 3-2 to approve $96,500 in funding to help cover the costs of three concerts — plus marketing — money that would be reimbursed to the city through ticket sales.

Councilors Russ Brown and Tim McGlothlin voted against the proposal.

Brown said city officials should focus on funding infrastructure or other priorities rather than entertainment. On Tuesday, McGlothlin said his vote in April did not mean he objected to the concept of having the city help pay for cultural events. Rather, he said, his intent “was to vote the proposal down and negotiate a lower cost. This didn't happen, so I accepted the outcome and we move on. I am very conservative with taxpayers’ money, yet I realize that money leveraged to support certain community celebrations can be a great thing for the community.”

Hare said the promoters were also on target to come significantly under the original $27,500 budget for the Aug. 13 show as well. He said successful shows on Aug. 13 and Sept. 10 (budgeted at $14,000), will help bridge the funding gap. Also part of next month’s festivities will be the “Neon Cruise” auto show in downtown The Dalles on Aug. 12; the “Show in the Shade” at Sorosis Park on Aug. 13; and the “Dallesport Drags” racing at The Dalles Airport in Dallesport on Aug. 14.

“It was challenging to come up with the right branding,” said Haines. “It went from a concert series to a summer celebration. Given that we did not have any national touring acts, I thought it came out fine. We feel we’re in a successful place for a positive outcome.” Although the promoters declined to reveal to the Chronicle what their take was from the July 3 concert, Lawrence felt the overall deal was fair.

“We never asked how much they made,” he said. “It’s their business. They also took risks. We covered one event and they covered the rest, so more power to them. It’s a tribute to The Dalles that we have these kinds of people who can do these things for us.”

“As far as getting our money back, if we break even, we win,” McGlothlin added. “If the amount of money that is lost grows, or feedback from participants turn negative, then I would say the expenditure should be questioned. All feedback from this event was very positive, and I suspect the next event will make money. I have tremendous confidence in the two young men sponsoring the events. They both have a proven history of success.”

Lawrence said the concert series seemed to be going well, as evidenced by the money the promoters returned to the city.

“Now we’re not talking about an $80,000 exposure,” Lawrence said. “Money has come back that we can use for second concert. If all the money comes back, I think we should set it aside for next year.” He strongly defended the city’s decision to invest in the entertainment package.“It’s not just the concert. It’s a full weekend people can come and enjoy,” Lawrence said. “I know there is an argument that this is something government should not do. But I think the government should look at the overall community. If this stimulates the economy and brings enjoyment and a better quality of life, you should do it. That’s why I support it 100 percent.”

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