Texas Town Learns Lesson

Conroe, Texas, wanted to bring in Ricky Skaggs to promote the town as an arts and entertainment destination, but did so to the tune of more than $16,000 in taxpayer dollars.

City Councilman Jay Ross Martin told the local newspaper that the Skaggs concert was a success because it promoted a “good, positive” image for the town of 43,000, but admitted that maybe the city should get out of the concert business.

“We don’t have a department to do the things that needed to be done for a concert like Ricky Skaggs,” Martin, told Montgomery County’s Courier. “We need to turn it over to a nonprofit group that is more capable of putting on these shows.”

The December 12th show had a $32,000 budget but unexpected costs raised the price to $42,000. Only $25,639 came back.

Problems with the event sprouted instantly.

First there was a scheduling conflict with the original venue, the 541-seat Crighton Theatre, when a stage play earlier in the day forced the concert to move to the new 1,200-capacity Ark Family Church.

The Crighton Theatre also had trouble with the volume of ticket orders.

“One phone line and one computer cannot accommodate a show of this magnitude,” said Janna Patrick, the city’s arts and communications coordinator, in a memo to City Administrator Jerry McGuire.

What’s more, the theatre’s box office was only open between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m.

With the change of venue, the city had to rent a sound system because the P.A. at the church may have been good for preaching, but it wasn’t made for amplifying Skaggs’ mandolin. Also, there was no reserved seating at the church.

The most costly mistake might have been changing the ticket price from $56 to $28 after moving to the church venue. Martin told the paper the change was meant to bring in more families, but added that the city may have lowered the price too much and could have sold the same amount of tickets at $40 a piece.

Councilman Martin told the Courier he’s not a concert promoter, and that he would “take whatever medicine I deserve” when it comes to the concert’s bottom line.