ALBANY, GA (WALB) - When was the last time you went to the Albany Civic Center? For most of you it's probably been a while. Fewer than 85,000 people attended events at the venue in the last year.
While revenue is up slightly, the Civic Center remains a drain on city finances.
At the end of June, around 700 people attended a concert at the Albany Civic Center featuring Keyshia Cole. One of the headliners, Lil Boosie, didn't show up because of an illness.
Technology and other influences
"It's a challenge," said Joel Holmes, who is in charge of marketing for the Civic Center. He admitted attracting elite acts isn't an easy task.
"They're gonna go to venues where they can just almost guarantee a large number of ticket sales," he added.
And even if a big name does hit the stage, it may not translate into a big crowd. Holmes said in the age of YouTube, people just don't attend concerts as much as they used to.
"With technology today, it's almost like being at a show even though you're not there, where 20 years ago you didn't have that option. You had to show up at the concert and pay the price to be there." Holmes said.
Success isn't out of reach
But Odyssey Records owner and concert promoter Gilbert Udoto said people will come to the Civic Center for a concert.
"You have to know what the people want," he explained.
Udoto has promoted nearly 50 concerts for more than 25 years. He said his M.C. Hammer show in 1992 drew the second biggest crowd ever to the Civic Center. Foreigner drew the largest crowd at over 11,000 in attendance. M.C. Hammer attracted 10,200.
His last concert last year featuring Fantasia and Ron Isley drew almost 3,000 fans, but he's had several in the last few years that attracted more than 5,000. "The year before, we did Fantasia and Anthony Hamilton and we had over 6,000. It was a sellout really for Albany."
According to Udoto, it takes a great act, great timing, and great promotion to be successful.
But he admits the odds are stacked against Albany.
"In most cases in a small market like here, the groups don't want to come," explained Udoto.
He said the main problem is most top acts are contracted with huge promotion companies that won't even consider Albany.
He also added that the city is competing with big promoters like Live Nation.
But Udoto did note that it would help to have a full-time Civic Center manager to build relationships with promoters.
"You have to invest in something to get something, so we need a full time manager," he added.
Joel Holmes also oversees the city's recreation and parks department and is only at the Civic Center part-time, but he says things are looking up.
"We're getting phone calls pretty regularly from promoters," said Holmes.
He said he works closely with those promoters to attract good acts and price tickets affordably, but he makes sure they take the risk, not the taxpayers.
"We're gonna cover our expenses to where at the end of the night, no matter what ticket sales are, we're not gonna lose money," Holmes said.
He's also focusing on attracting more trade shows and conferences to utilize the facility even more than the 100 to 125 days a year it's used now.
"The Civic Center is a lot busier than people realize." - Joel Holmes, Albany Recreation & Parks
And to make it even busier, Holmes encourages everyone to show up at events here.
"If it's something you enjoy, support it," he added.
That's one sure way to attract more acts, and help reduce the burden on taxpayers to operate the Civic Center.
The Civic Center does have a big concert set for July 29 when Grammy award-winning world-famous rapper T.I. performs.
However, the Civic Center doesn't have a full time director. City Manager Sharon Subadan says she doesn't plant to change that and she doesn't think the facility is poorly managed. But she admits putting on big concerts isn't something local government is built to do well.
Subadan did say she would consider letting a private company take over management of the Civic Center, if the right group made the right offer.