Events down at Albany Civic Center - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

Events down at Albany Civic Center

By Karen Cohilas - bio | email

September 11, 2008

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - The Director of the Albany Civic Center says the downturn in the economy is hurting his effort to attract more events. John Mazzola insists he's doing his best to turn the Civic Center but admits the number of events at the taxpayer-supported arena is going down.

When John Mazzola was hired to run the Albany Civic Center, a large weight was placed on his shoulders. One he hasn't been able to remove. "It's on my shoulders everyday."

He's been charged with bringing in events that will attract big crowds, but Mazzola says the crowds almost never come. "Our ticket sales in our community have been very soft."

Preventing promoters from even booking in Albany. "They go where the tickets are selling."

Take a look at the numbers:  In fiscal year '06, 60 events were booked in the main arena, taking up 85 total days. That number fell to just 44 events last fiscal year, with only 61 days booked, leaving this 10,200 seat arena empty for nearly 300 days.

Mazzola blames the drop, primarily, on the economy.  He said, "People are worried about groceries, rent, gas and the last thing they're worried about is even going out to the movie theater or coming to an event at the Civic Center. I think that cuts back on everything else too. The banquets, the meetings, the trade shows. People are stopping their traveling and cutting back on all their numbers."

Mazzola's boss, Assistant City Manager Wes Smith, agrees. He said, "With $4 gas and people struggling to pay rent and make mortgages, you just don't see the same kind of enthusiasm and optimism from the promotions market."

Which has also left the lights off at the Municipal auditorium many more days than they were on last year. There were only 48 event days booked here last year, compared to 75 in 2006.

Mazzola said, "We want to bring events here. We want to host events. We don't like sitting here with the building dark." Mazzola has been criticized by some for running away business with a sudden and major fee increase, which was later split up over a three year period. He says that's the only thing he would change. "I think in the case of the rent structure, we would have done the three year split immediately."

But he says he shouldn't be blamed for refusing to give the building away to everyone who wants to use it, since the city already allows about an $800,000 deficit on the building each year. "Taxpayers are subsidizing the building to keep it open and available. At a certain point, as a producer comes in, they need to pay their fair share of actual expenses, labor, rental equipment, things that they asked for to provide their show."

Shows he hopes will continue to go on. Mazzola says he's stepping up marketing, sending out e-mail blasts, and doing street advertising. The civic center now has its own website as well.

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