Rescue At The Mountain

A Philadelphia real estate developer is stepping in to help Pennsylvania’s Mountain Laurel Center lighten its financial burden.

Greystone Capital Partners is proposing to subdivide the 675-acre property where the venue is located and build a residential retirement community and another attraction to complement the PAC. In return, the company would pick up nearly all of Mountain Laurel’s $23 million debt and lease the performance space back to the not-for-profit organization that is to run the venue for 50 years.

Mountain Laurel CEO Richard Bryant said the potential pact with the developer, which is in the early stages, is an innovative and well-timed solution.

“It’s a really excellent turn of events for us,” Bryant told Pollstar. “[We’ve been] laboring for the past year to invigorate and restructure the project and have made progress essentially by being able to open our first full summer season.

“What is unusual is that the developer came later rather than earlier. Normally, the development interest would be in there first and they would be seeking to attract a not-for-profit corporation that would take the responsibility for working in collaboration with them.”

The $35 million performing arts facility, which includes the 10,000-capacity Tom Ridge Pavilion, opened in August 2003 to great fanfare. The venue was expected to be the summer home of the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra until it ran into cash-flow problems. Bryant was brought in as CEO last year to work with the board to turn things around.

The Greystone project requires state approval since a condition of the $15 million grant that helped pay for Mountain Laurel states that the property won’t be sold or subdivided.

Meanwhile, the PAC’s summer concert series has been going well overall, despite a few cancellations due to slow ticket sales or artist illness, Bryant said. Concerts on the books through August 31st include Ricky Skaggs, The Del McCoury Band, Third Day, and ZZ Top.

“It’s going to take a few years to get [the venue] branded. We’re learning in leaps and bounds,” Bryant explained. “There’s so much newness here as it is. People don’t know how to drive to the place, they don’t know what to expect when they get here and we got a late start.

“I think that until we get the people fully knowledgeable of where we are, we’re going to have to be more reliant on the acts pulling the destination as opposed to the other way around.”

Tina Amendola