Major changes could be in store for Madison’s Overture Center for the Arts throughout the next several months if the city decides to overhaul the facility’s current funding structure.
Rachel Strauch-Nelson, spokesperson for Mayor Dave Cieslewicz, told The Badger Herald a proposed model for the Overture Center would grant ownership of the building to the city, while a non-profit organization would control all other aspects of running the facility.
The city council will consider a resolution laying out the issues facing the Overture Center and the proposed model at an August meeting, Cieslewicz said. He added he expects the final vote on the proposed model to take place in October or November of this year.
Cieslewicz has indicated his support for a plan similar to the proposed model throughout the year. In his June State of the City address, he said the Overture Center is a vital part of Madison’s economy and the city should take ownership of the building.
In response to concerns taxpayers would pay more for the Overture Center if the plan goes through, Cieslewicz said his goal is to make sure the city does not spend any more money on the Overture Center than it did for the lot’s previous occupant, the Madison Civic Center.
Cieslewicz said the city’s operating subsidy for the Overture Center would be equal to the Civic Center’s subsidy, adjusted for inflation.
“Those costs are actually lower than they would have been had we kept the Civic Center,” Cieslewicz said. “We’re actually better off with the Overture Center than we were with the Civic Center.”
Overture Center spokesperson Rob Chapel said the model would give the city ownership of the building while the city will continue providing a $1.4 million annual subsidy for a non-profit organization running the Overture Center operations.
If the non-profit’s expenditures exceed the subsidy, the city will not provide additional funds to the organization, Chapel said.
The city will pay for maintenance costs associated with the building itself.
“This is a $205 million building sitting on a really valuable piece of property that the city can buy for one dollar,” Chapel said.
Chapel said the Overture Center has recently become a more attractive location for off-Broadway shows, which has increased attendance compared to previous years.
The center’s programming will increase from 25 to approximately 50 off-Broadway shows annually, regardless of which new model the city adopts, Chapel added.
He cited a maturing market and audience attracted by major productions such as The Lion King and Wicked as one of the most important reasons for the development.
“This is a long time coming,” Chapel said. “You could say we’ve been working on becoming a prime Broadway market for more than 20 years.”
Season tickets subscriptions, a large portion of the Overture Center’s revenue, exceeded the projected rate of 2800 subscribers, with 5100 subscribers so far this year, Chapel said. Over 500,000 people visit the Overture Center on an annual basis, half of them visiting the facility for free events.