The Yucaipa Performing Arts Center update was presented to the city council on May 27 at the Yucaipa City Council meeting.
Director of Community Services Megan Wolfe started by saying, “The Yucaipa Performing Arts Center (YPAC) opened in April of 2019.”
She continued with, “Since the opening, there have been seven outdoor large events, which include rentals. Those seven large events drew over 57,000 people to the Uptown. In addition, there were 24 indoor events, which again were rental and ‘YPAC Presents’ events which drew over 2,100 people to the Uptown. That is a combined total of 78,000 people visiting the Uptown since April 2019.”
During the first three months of the fiscal year, 2019/20 the YPAC held three large outdoor shows. Unfortunately, at that time marketing was not at the level needed to sell the number of tickets required to cover the cost of the events. Since then, there has been some success relative to marketing.
Some of the issues at YPAC include a combination of factors such as lack of ticket sales as a result of not reaching target audiences both locally and regionally, timeliness of advertising, too many shows for this community and entertainment selection booked by third-party talent buyers. To address the issues identified and due to the impacts of the COVID-19 guidelines, staff is recommending changes for the 2020/2021 season.
“Now that a year of programming is under our belts, we have a few recommended changes for the next season for fiscal year July 2020 to June 2021,” said Wolfe.
Wolfe went on to say, “Those recommended changes are to reduce the number of shows presented by the YPAC from 12 large outdoor shows to a minimum of four large outdoor shows. Reduce the number from 24 indoor shows to a minimum of 10 indoor shows. The next recommended change is to enhance and increase marketing which includes the selling of season tickets. And to add a goal of becoming a main rental space for weddings, Quinceaneras, conferences, live entertainment and expos.”
Councilmember Dick Riddell said, “I can see this is a losing proposition.”
Mayor Pro Tem Denise Allen said, “The council committee did meet and we discussed this agenda item and we’re supportive of the staff recommendations for this coming fiscal year. We understood clearly that FY19/20 was going to be an exploration year for our YPAC. We would see what worked and what didn’t work in our community. We had funding to support that exploration. I think we have some good data in front of us in terms of what was received well, what worked well and perhaps what we want to stay away from for the next year as we continue to evolve our Performing Arts Center.”
Councilmember Bobby Duncan said, “As we move through the process to develop this project, I guess I always had a different vision than the main vision of everyone else. My vision was that this would be like every day or every two to three days there would be an event going on that was a paid event. That is not the case. I think that it is a first class facility and I really believe that there is a lot of potential to earn revenue there but it is dependent on how long this COVID crap is going to be going on. I think we are just dead right now with this project and we don’t even know if this governor is ever going to let us come back alive as far as getting together with 8,000 people. We just don’t have the ability right now to even project this accurately. I agree with Councilmember Riddell that we have lost money but as Councilmember Allen said that was sort of a learning situation but we do have to figure out what we are going to do with it because we can’t afford to be losing money like this in the future.”
Councilmember Greg Bogh added, “I don’t think we ever anticipated it would be a real money maker in the beginning so we are learning as Mayor Pro Tem Allen mentioned. But I do think some of these adjustments will help and perhaps if the rentals are successful, maybe it will have an event every week or every other day, who knows? But I believe that as a city, we are going to sponsor four outside events and 10 inside events and it will be open up to the public for rentals. I’m still hopeful for it and I think it is going to be great. I think once we are out of this COVID thing, people are going to want to get out and go do things.”
Mayor David Avila said, “The first year was our experimental year and then when we thought we had a handle on it, we get this curveball in the form of COVID-19. So we are again kind of treading in unchartered waters and we really don’t know what our future holds. I think this is a good basic plan and as the situation changes statewide, we can always adapt and modify and maybe come back at mid-year and redesign our identified goals and objectives on this.
City Manager Ray Casey stated, “Just for clarification, as we all recall, we never anticipated this facility to pay for itself, just like city hall doesn’t pay for itself, the police station doesn’t pay for itself, they are tools and amenities. We estimated early on, even prior to construction, that based on what we learned from other communities that this was likely, at best, to be about a $500,000 a year cost. This first year we have learned a few things and that net cost was higher than $500,000 but going forward in an effort to manage expectations, overall we are certainly hopeful that cost recovery goes up from where it is now. There will be ongoing operational and maintenance costs for a facility like this and there will be net programming costs. We can mitigate that through enhanced rentals and managing some of the larger concerts. We believe we will benefit from what we have learned.”
Riddell said, “I agree with what Ray is saying as we are in this to make money but these costs are staggering. If you look at the items, the big performances were the big losers. We should shoot for something that is not quite so expensive, maybe it would be closer to being profitable … I don’t think it will ever be profitable but if we make adjustments where we think maybe the expenses are worth it and then let it be an asset to the community.”
Mayor Pro Tem Allen made a motion to “approve the change in direction with the modifications as presented that we are not modifying the goal, we are just adding an additional goal to focus on rental opportunities as well as the arts.” The motion carried 5-0.
Supporting documents are available for public view on the city of Yucaipa website at yucaipa.org.