The Colorado Symphony Orchestra performs in Boettcher Concert Hall in the Denver Performing Arts Complex.
The city of Denver is cutting the Colorado Symphony extra slack in two lease deals that will provide the organization with nearly free office space and cheaper rent to use Boettcher Concert Hall.
Two years ago, the Colorado Symphony Association ended the year in the black for the first time since a 2011 internal review declared that it was on the brink of financial disaster. Now on the upswing, the association will get an extra cushion from an estimated savings of $166,000 a year at the city-owned Denver Performing Arts Complex under two lease agreements. Both are up for approval by the City Council on Monday night.
The break on rent is being granted by Denver Arts & Venues, which operates off admission taxes and other income from city-owned venues.
Ginger White-Brunetti, the city agency’s deputy director, said the changes reflect that the orchestra is using aging facilities.
As part of evolving plans to rebuild the arts complex in coming years, the city and the Symphony Association also have been in talks about replacing Boettcher — a 2,600-seat, in-the-round concert hall built in 1978 — with a smaller, more modern venue that would better accommodate the orchestra’s attendance.
“What this deal structure does is provide the symphony with a home at the arts complex and Boettcher Concert Hall for three and a half years,” through June 2021, White-Brunetti said during a recent council committee presentation. “That allows them to not only have some certainty in their budget process … but also it helps them to grow financially as they continue this upward trajectory.”
A financial summary provided by the Colorado Symphony shows that the organization has turned an operating surplus the last two years, and White-Brunetti noted that half of symphony attendees were younger than 55, reflecting work to attract a broader audience.
In the CSO’s fiscal year ending June 30, 2017, the organization had a nearly $200,000 operating surplus. Other income resulted in an overall $2.4 million addition to its net assets.
In the 2017 fiscal year, the Symphony Association had an operating surplus of nearly $200,000, on $12.8 million in revenue. Other income recorded outside its operating budget resulted in a net positive balance of $2.4 million, according to the summary.
The Colorado Symphony will continue to use fourth-floor office space at 1245 Champa St., where it had most recently paid $60,000 a year, for $1 annually. The organization still will be responsible for covering utility bills and other expenses that it estimates at $36,000 a year.
At Boettcher, the association had paid rent based on 5 percent of ticket sales and a flat rate for rehearsals, totaling $286,000 in the 2016-17 season. The new lease calls for a flat rent of $15,000 a month, or $180,000 per year.
Orchestra leaders say it’s on track to be in the black again in the fiscal year that ends June 30.
But Coreen Miller, the Symphony Association’s chief financial officer and chief operating officer, said the new lease deal “does not make the difference between operating at a significant surplus or loss.”
“As a nonprofit organization and Colorado’s only full-time professional orchestra, the Colorado Symphony is sincerely grateful for the new lease agreement which was reached with Denver Arts & Venues,” Miller said in a statement. “The agreement will reduce our expenses and provide us a venue in which to perform while we turn our focus towards building a permanent home.”
During the council’s April 25 committee hearing, President Albus Brooks said the symphony’s more secure footing “has been a long time coming.” He added: “Through good leadership and collaboration with Arts & Venues, it’s exciting to see that we’ve got a deal worked out for the public facility.”
Under the Boettcher deal, Arts & Venues has agreed to spend $800,000 on capital improvement and equipment costs for the concert hall. White-Brunetti said the city will absorb more costs, but she said the city’s ongoing operating loss for Boettcher has been more than offset by parking and ticket tax income from attendees of the symphony’s concerts.
The Colorado Symphony has agreed to increase its schedule of free community concerts from three a year to seven. The four extra performances will be staged outside downtown.
Here is a presentation given to the City Council: