City Turns Venues Over To Nonprofit

The city of Chattanooga, Tenn., is turning over operations of its  and the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Auditorium to a newly formed nonprofit organization on the recommendation of a local citizens group.

Photo: AP Photo / Chattanooga Times Free Press, Angela Lewis Foster
Chattanooga, Tenn., Mayor Andy Berke and members of the Tivoli Theatre Foundation meet the press in the venue’s ornate lobby Feb. 5. The city government is spinning off operation of two theatres into the new nonprofit organization.

Mayor Andy Berke told The Chattanoogan the city is losing some $750,000 on operating the two venues, which both have “many dark nights.”

A similar nonprofit in Knoxville took over the historic Tennessee Theatre in 2006 and raised $28 million for a full restoration, and the venue now boasts events 280 nights a year and last year earned $4.3 million in revenue, according to the paper.

Current city staff at the venues will continue on at the venues at least through the end of June.

The 1,760-seat Tivoli was purchased by the city of Chattanooga in 1976 after it was closed by private ownership. The 3,866-seat Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Auditorium was built by the city in the early 1920s.

Chattanooga has reportedly subsidized both venues to the tune of more than $1 million per year. “The new Tivoli Theatre Foundation will lead and manage both the Tivoli Theatre and the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Auditorium, as recommended by Mayor Berk’s Chattanooga Forward task force on Entertainment & Attractions,” the paper quoted a city statement. “The goal of the non-profit entity is to ensure the sustainability of both historic buildings while promoting them as vibrant attractions that add to the quality of life in Chattanooga.

“The city will retain ownership of the buildings and is in the process of drafting [a memorandum of understanding] and lease agreement with the Tivoli Theatre Foundation to be finalized next month.”