Editorial: What to do about the cultural centre

It is disappointing to look at the fourth quarter report on the Morinville Community Cultural Centre (CCC) and see the facility lost $353,352 in its first half year of operation. We take comfort that estimated losses were in the neighbourhood of $418,477 and the actual losses were less.

The disappointment is not that the facility lost some money; we realize community buildings often lose money. The arena is not a building that generates profit in any year, which means the tax payer underwrites those annual losses. Certainly no one would suggest the arena should be shuttered because it costs more to operate than it takes in. Such a suggestion would flood council chambers with the numbers of people only animal bylaws can draw.

No one is suggesting the CCC be shuttered or torn down to make room for a swimming pool, but there are a lot of people in this community who are still opposed to the facility seven months after it opened its doors, perhaps not understanding just how great a role the facility plays in the community.

Make no mistake about it; the CCC is hopping. On Feb. 28 the facility was simultaneously being used by army cadets, Toastmasters, an art club, and Morinville Town Council. And that was just in the evening.

Underwriting a loss for a facility so well used by community groups and for community programming leaves us little reason to complain or be upset, not if we are going to accept a loss on the arena each year and an inevitable loss on a swimming pool whenever one gets built.

What we must be disappointed about, however, is the elephant in the room that is the Centennial Concert Series, an impressive series of top regional and national talent that has from its opening performance last October until the end of 2011 managed to generate the paltry sum of $6,009 for five events. That’s an average of $1,201.80 per show.

The reality is we are not getting the likes of Lizzy Hoyt, Al Simmons or Lorne Elliott for a grand a pop. If we were, the CCC would walk away from an ambitious inaugural performing series with a break-even situation. Clearly this is not the case.
Making tickets available through Tix on the Square is wise, but people have to be looking for that act for the magic to work. Promoting the CCC’s own website as an avenue for tickets when that site does not exist is folly. And why, after seven months, does a web site not exist when next door we have any number of brilliant students who could build an attractive and marketable website over their lunch hour.

Marketing is a mixed medium today. Conventional print advertising, which is being used, has its place to raise awareness and to reinforce knowledge already conveyed, but the utter lack of using social media to promote these shows is a situation that makes Morinville seem grossly out of step with its median demographic.

As anyone who has ever promoted a show or event in Morinville well knows, you cannot pop up posters a week or 10 days prior to the show and expect a sell-out gig, and yet it’s been done more than once or twice.

We have no criticism of the selection of performers the manager of the CCC has lined up for the inaugural series, but we do feel the series is a little out of step with the community’s demographic.

The median age in Morinville is 33.6, an age of mom and dad and the kids. We hope subsequent taxpayer-funded concert series will have a little more on the stage for children and their parents to gaze at. The overwhelming success of the family movie night held during the Family Day weekend shows this community is crying for something for families and youth to do. The 380 people who came out to watch a movie in this wonderful community facility represents a larger turn out in just one night than the combined audience of all five performances held in 2011.

Not all of the blame lies with the Town of Morinville. While much needs to be improved in promoting the CCC’s concert series, it would be nice if a few more of us took a chance on something a little different and started supporting these shows.

You can spend another $25 on lottery tickets this week or you can spend that $25 on a concert ticket. When it’s over, both kinds of tickets will be worth nothing. But with the concert ticket you will at least have seen a damn fine show right here in your own home town.

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The Morinville News is an online daily and bi-weekly print publication serving Morinville and surrounding area. Our print publication is distributed on the first, third and fifth Wednesday. You can also follow us online on Twitter @MorinvilleNews and on Facebook at Facebook.com/MorinvilleNews

2 Comments

  1. I have to agree with most of what you have to say here.

    I know that among your readership are those with the power to affect change.

    When I was in the army, we were often told “a word to the wise is all that should be necessary”.

    All of the performances that I have attended have been worth the price of admission.

  2. As always Stephen, I enjoy reading your opines on all things Morinville, and once again you have written a well-thought out editorial with some suggestions for change.

    I think you have hit all the issues squarely, with the lack of effective advertising and the lack of shows that fit the demographic front-and-center issues.

    As you said, solving the advertising issue by appealing to the demographic is key. I try to be fairly involved in this town, but I can honestly tell you that I get the opportunity to read the paper maybe once every 3 weeks or so, and there’s few places I would spot a flyer (even though I work and shop in town). If I was commuting, it would be extremely easy to get disconnected in this town. A creative way to advertise to young, commuting residents should be a priority.

    As far as entertainers, it is admirable, but perhaps incorrect to try and bring ‘the best’ entertainers that Morinville can get (the large per-show losses we are suffering is proof of that).
    I am absolutely a ‘shop local’ proponent, being that I live and work here, I try to buy everything I can from vendors in Morinville. That being said, if I want to go see a world class event that I’m going to pay $50-$200/ticket… I’m going to Edmonton. Morinville will NEVER be able to compete in the ‘world class’ market segment.

    The CCC needs to target where they have a competitive advantage. People are looking for an opportunity to connect with their neighbours, their community, and people with children of similar ages as well. Going to a ‘community-event’ in St. Albert or Edmonton doesn’t make sense, so Morinville has an obvious market here. The problem is that this is perhaps not the ‘glamorous’ market that some people are set on.

    I really couldn’t agree more with you Stephen, if we stopped paying very expensive headliners and started getting a little creative in offering community-centered events, and started advertising them effectively, the CCC would be an even more valuable part of this town.

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