Concert revenue equals spending, costs remain up in air

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Janene Amick, CEO of the Manatee Performing Arts Center, presents her report April 15 to the TDC on the BACVB-sponsored concerts held at MPAC in Bradenton and at the Center of Anna Maria Island in Anna Maria. Islander Photo: Ryan Paice

A final report on the concert series at the Center of Anna Maria Island is out.

The costs, however, remain secret.

The series, which ran from February to the start of April, featured The Outlaws, Phil Vassar, Judy Collins, BJ Thomas and The Marshall Tucker Band. The Manatee County Tourist Development Council approved spending for the Bradenton Area Convention and Visitors Bureau of $100,000 in tourist tax revenue to sponsor the concerts, but no expenses were detailed in a final report presented to TDC members.

Janene Amick, chief executive officer of the Manatee Performing Arts Center, presented the report to the TDC and said the concerts had raised almost $100,000 in ticket sales.

She said the money would be split between MPAC, which hosted the Judy Collins concert and managed the series and box office sales, and the island center, which hosted four concerts.

Center board chair David Zaccagnino and executive director Chris Culhane told The Islander that expense details for the series would be disclosed during Amick’s presentation, but Amick made no mention of expenses in her presentation to the TDC.

Apparently, her omission of expenses was by design.

She said in an April 16 interview with The Islander that MPAC’s contracts with the concert performers, as well as the promoter, Rich Engler, would not be disclosed to the public because of the competitive nature of the entertainment industry.

Amick said disclosing the contracts would allow competitors to undermine MPAC’s future negotiations with performers and promoters, but added that the BACVB’s $100,000 went entirely to Engler and the performers.

Amick said in an interview April 10 that MPAC incurred other expenses to stage concerts at the island center, including valet services and sound and lighting system rentals. She added the center also incurred expenditures, including the cost of security, chair rentals and food and beverages.

No such expenses were disclosed to the TDC or to The Islander, despite requests for records under Florida’s Sunshine Laws.

Manatee County Commissioner Carol Whitmore, who chairs the TDC, was absent April 15 due to illness, but later agreed in a phone call with the reasoning for omitting expenses in the report.

“It wasn’t paid for with tax money, it was paid for with tourist tax, not Manatee County residents, unless they stayed in a hotel in Manatee County or a short-term rental,” she said. “I don’t know who was paid what, what costs what. It really isn’t my business.”

The county tourist tax is a 5% tax on rentals of six months or less.

Whitmore said the TDC funded the series to bring people to the area to help counter the negative effects of red tide in 2018 on local businesses. She said that was accomplished.

“I was at The Outlaws concert and I met some guys from England that were in Orlando that saw on the internet that The Outlaws were going to be here, and they downloaded all their songs and listened on the way here and told me about a bunch of songs I didn’t even know,” Whitmore said. “So yeah, there was people from all over, it wasn’t a local thing.”

“This ended up being surprisingly successful,” she added.

When asked if there was data backing up the claim that the series brought tourists to the area and nearby businesses, Whitmore responded, “I have no clue.”

The Islander submitted a records request March 15 to BACVB executive director Elliott Falcione and Whitmore, but the request remained largely unfulfilled as of April 22.

Some purchase orders and invoices were provided, as well as a spreadsheet related to Jane Seymour’s visit. Other documents await processing.

Whitmore said all Sunshine-liable information already had been disclosed.

At the meeting, Falcione announced the BACVB would ask the county commission to approve the concert sponsorship expense for the next two years.

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