Koka Booth Amphitheatre beats revenue projects, but runs at deficit

aspecht@newsobserver.comOctober 28, 2013 

— Koka Booth Amphitheatre had higher revenues than expected this fiscal year but still operated at a loss.

As of last month, the amphitheater brought in $737,800 in revenue. Meanwhile, it spent $909,100, for a deficit of about $171,300.

The town of Cary had anticipated the amphitheater would operate at a $174,400 loss, according to recently released projections.

The concert venue beat projections despite hosting two fewer national shows this year, according to the town report.

The town’s promoter, Outback Concerts, earns revenue from national ticket sales. Cary earns revenue from concession sales and parking.

Lyman Collins, Cary’s cultural arts manager, said a nationally promoted concert usually brings in $20,000, so if the amphitheater had hosted 12 nationally promoted concerts instead of 10, the deficit would have been about $40,000 less.

Despite the deficit, town staff consider 2013 one of the amphitheater’s most successful years. Average attendance for concerts rose 23percent, and average revenue per concert rose 9percent.

The Lumineers concert in June was the highest-grossing revenue event in the venue’s history. That concert also was the amphitheater’s first sellout since 2008, but it wasn’t the band’s first performance at Koka Booth. The Lumineers opened for Old Crow Medicine Show in 2012.

The Lumineers’ popularity has skyrocketed in the last year, but Collins said he suspected the band was willing to return to Cary as a headliner a year later because it had a great experience in 2012.

Two other major revenue sources – sponsorships and season tickets – were up 8percent and 55percent, respectively. Based on those positive trends, the Cary Town Council approved a $171,200 operating subsidy Thursday for budget year 2014.

Councilman Don Frantz said he would love to see the amphitheater survive on its own, but many amenities don’t make money for the town. He said he doesn’t mind subsidizing it “a little bit” so long as residents continue clamoring for events there. “I have yet to hear anybody complain about it,” Frantz said. “It’s one of Cary’s gems.”

Specht: 919-460-2608; Twitter: @AndySpecht

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