Third Time’s A Charm In Kansas City

The Kansas City Star published an article by Kevin Collison and Paul Horsley which reports the beleaguered Metropolitan Kansas City Performing Arts Center is finally back on track and building momentum once again…

Julia Irene Kauffman’s visionary Performing Arts Center has had more than its fair share of bumps on the road. However, compared to similar PAC projects, their troubles haven’t been associated with funding so much as disagreements with the local government about location of the hall and parking facilities.

Of the four concert hall projects which have been tracked for over two years, one has gone completely belly up (Richmond, VA) another is scheduled to open on time and under budget (Nashville, TN) another is working on stabilizing its audience (Dayton, OH) and in Kansas City the project continues to enter into a renewing period of design evolve and migration.

By all accounts, the Metropolitan Kansas City Performing Arts Center could have been well under way if they were able to establish a strong political connection among the local government leaders. The squabble ahs been related mostly to parking issues: the PAC and the local government disagreed on where parking facilities should be located and as a result of the impasse, the PAC scrapped their original design and took a year wandering through Kansas City looking for another location.

Fortunately, that all seems to be worked out at this point and the PAC can now get back to the business of raising the rest of the capital they need to turn their vision into concrete and steel.

The Kansas City Star reports that the organization has raised $261 million of the $326 million in funds they need to build the center and create an operating endowment (which is just a bit ahead of what Atlanta has raised for their concert hall project). The upshot of waiting awhile longer to build the facility is that the PAC leaders have hopefully been watching events in Philadelphia, Richmond, Nashville, and Atlanta; all of which have distinct lessons which the Metropolitan Kansas City Performing Arts Center should take to heart.

Ideally, the Metropolitan Kansas City Performing Arts Center has learned the following lessons:

  • it’s important not to underestimate the necessary funds to establish an adequate operating endowment (Philadelphia)
  • don’t underestimate the power of public exposure and public support to help keep the local government out of your hair (Nashville)
  • don’t mislead the public or government officials about how much money you actually have in the bank (Richmond)
  • don’t put all of your fundraising eggs in one government issue basket. (Atlanta)

  • The PAC looks lovely, you can visit their website for a few renderings:

    About Drew McManus

    "I hear that every time you show up to work with an orchestra, people get fired." Those were the first words out of an executive's mouth after her board chair introduced us. That executive is now a dear colleague and friend but the day that consulting contract began with her orchestra, she was convinced I was a hatchet-man brought in by the board to clean house.

    I understand where the trepidation comes from as a great deal of my consulting and technology provider work for arts organizations involves due diligence, separating fact from fiction, interpreting spin, as well as performance review and oversight. So yes, sometimes that work results in one or two individuals "aggressively embracing career change" but far more often than not, it reinforces and clarifies exactly what works and why.

    In short, it doesn't matter if you know where all the bodies are buried if you can't keep your own clients out of the ground, and I'm fortunate enough to say that for more than 15 years, I've done exactly that for groups of all budget size from Qatar to Kathmandu.

    For fun, I write a daily blog about the orchestra business, provide a platform for arts insiders to speak their mind, keep track of what people in this business get paid, help write a satirical cartoon about orchestra life, hack the arts, and love a good coffee drink.

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