Menlo Park's theatrical experiment

City sponsors events at M-A Performing Arts Center

Postcards advertising musicians and comedians popped up in Menlo Park postboxes recently, bearing the city's logo in the bottom right corner.

It turns out the city is experimenting with a new model for using the Performing Arts Center at Menlo-Atherton High School, according to Recreation Services Manager Katrina Whiteaker. She said the city is working with a production agency -- identified as Prime Time Entertainment on the postcards -- that provides sound equipment, event coordination, and staffing.

Ms. Whiteaker described the city's financial commitment as "minimal marketing" and the facility itself. If revenue from the event exceeds a certain threshold, she said, the city receives a cut to cover costs.

The Menlo Park City Council in 2007 approved a $2.6 million payment toward construction of the center, guaranteeing the city rent-free use of the center for 55 days during the school year and unlimited use during school vacations. However, the city must pay labor costs, starting at $80 per hour, for custodial and theater management services.

The first two scheduled events were to be singer George Komsky on Saturday, May 21, and comedian Will Durst on Saturday, June 25. Tickets were set at $25 and $20, respectively.

For an event like the concert, Ms. Whiteaker said, with 14 hours of theater time needed, including set-up, the city would pay $1,120. If all 492 tickets sold, sales would generate $12,300 and Menlo Park would collect 15 percent, or approximately $1,845 to cover expenses.

So far the trial program isn't a booming success -- Mr. Komsky's show has been canceled, despite selling out theaters in Walnut Creek and San Francisco, according to Jim Douglas of Primetime Entertainment.

"What really needs to happen is to establish a decent-sized marketing budget, and get a series in place," he said. "You invest all that money on the front end, it only makes sense to invest enough resources to make it fly."

Calling the cancelation of the first event "frustrating," Mr. Douglas said it also showed what needs to happen to make future bookings a success, with tweaks such as a user-friendly ticket website; developing a database of ticket buyers; marquee names -- and a marquee to advertise the show, as the one at Menlo-Atherton High was unavailable.

Theater manager Cara Arcuni confirmed that the high school didn't allow the shows to be advertised on its marquee, because the display is created by video production students and a teacher who are "completely booked making displays for school events." She said the city has booked the center for 27 days so far this school year.

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Like this comment
Posted by Booker
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on May 17, 2011 at 12:09 pm

"She said the city has booked the center for 27 days so far this school year."

Where does the city post events for which it booked MA for 27 days this year?

What were these events? Public or Private?

Like this comment
Posted by Huh?
a resident of Menlo Park: The Willows
on May 17, 2011 at 12:28 pm

Was this $2.6 million from the general fund or from Measure T ? Is this what the residents got instead of the Children's Center? If the gift came from Measure T which passed with a 69% vote, the residents got a pig in a poke. A regional theatre at the high school was never mentioned in the Measure T ballot language. Winkler, Jellins, Collacchi, Kinney and Duboc took some grand liberties with this give away. What a shameful decision.

Like this comment
Posted by Menlo Oaks neighbor
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on May 17, 2011 at 3:03 pm

We live in Menlo Oaks and have not received any post cards regarding entertainment at the MA PAC. We certainly would consider attending some shows if we knew of them. What about the Almanac?

Like this comment
Posted by Booker
a resident of Menlo Park: Menlo Oaks
on May 17, 2011 at 3:16 pm


It came from the General Fund; I recall it hanging around as en encumbrance to the GF. The city line at the time was that it would be cheaper to share the MA facility rather than build a new one. Unfortunately, it's another example of the city staff writing contracts that don't protect city's interests. The Agreement had a limited life (30 years I recall), and the city got the 'leftovers' in scheduling.


"From Almanac Wednesday, July 18, 2001
Big-ticket items that the bond would fund are:
A new childcare center on the site of the old Menlo Park police station ($6 million). Renovation of the Burgess Park recreation center and pools ($9.5 million).
New gymnasium facilities, in partnership with local schools ($3-$5 million). Rehabilitation of sports fields throughout the city ($6 - $9 million).
Improvements to Bayfront Park and the Onetta Harris Community Center ($2-$4 million).
Renovation of joint-use playing fields with local schools ($1.25 million).
A skate park at Flood Park ($750,000).

A new Burgess Theater was one of the projects identified in the $62-million "Recreational Facilities Master Plan" that didn't make the cut for the bond proposal."

Like this comment
Posted by observer
a resident of Menlo Park: Central Menlo Park
on May 18, 2011 at 4:10 am

The 4 years of Glen Rojas leading the City will be remembered as being as the era where the City never had a balanced budget, squandered millions on "give the unions what they want" and make sure the health benefits plans and retirements plans are paid in full, makimg sure City staff will be sure to get their full benefits.

Rojas leaves by retiring a few months early, gets hired on for these few months so that he can "double dip", getting retirement benefits as well as a salary. Glen Kramer being allowed to do likewise.

All this going on under the nose of an incompetent council, which rubber stamps everything staff has to offer.

Time for the residents to awaken. It is all so sad.

Like this comment
Posted by time for stamps
a resident of Menlo Park: Sharon Heights
on May 18, 2011 at 1:10 pm

well they better do something now that they wasted 38 million in city funds. yea it's a great looking piece of art for anybody who enters menlo park from 101 but it seats only 600 people. which is 1/3 of menlo atherton's student population. which renders it useless for assemblies and special events that require at least half the school to be there in order for the assembly day schedule to work out.
#2 it is a brand new clean canvas for any student who was already carving their nickname into the back of their classmate's seat during geometry.

Think a little more when you put a 38 million dollar luxury item on the campus who's kids came from murder capitol of the country in 1992.

not hating on the ghetto, let me explain. this would absolutely be a better fit for a school in newark NJ. at least their mayor is a sociological genius with ideals past next week in terms of pressure rates on the frontal lobe regarding psychological affects when monetarily being pressured by unions.

now lets go get a posh bagel!

...oh wait

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