Six-figure shortfall prompts talk of a fee for Buffalo Place concerts

August 28, 2013 Updated Aug 28, 2013 at 6:11 PM EDT

By Jim Fink, Business First

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August 28, 2013 Updated Aug 28, 2013 at 6:11 PM EDT

Rainy weather has pushed Buffalo Place’s summer concert series into the red.

Rain affected some of June's “Thursday at Canalside” shows. The loss of one one July date to the Independence Day holiday also had an adverse effect.

The concert series, as a result, is $193,213 off of original projections. The bulk of the series’ revenues comes from concession sales, although money also comes from sponsorship and tickets for “Buffalo Place Rocks Canalside” shows on the weekend.

Outside of the special-district charge, revenues from the summer concerts bring in a large share of Buffalo Place Inc.’s annual operating budget.

This year's shortfall is prompting some of Buffalo Place's directors to suggest that a small entrance fee may have to be charged next season.

Artpark began charging $5 and $10 fees for its Tuesday and Wednesday concerts two summers ago. The surcharge has not affected its attendance totals, although Artpark caps its capacity at 11,000 for most shows.

“They’re charging in Lewiston,” said developer Rocco Termini, a Buffalo Place director. “Maybe we should look at charging a small fee at the door to help eliminate our (financial) risk.”

Buffalo Place directors this morning learned that the July concerts, which included a trio of Thursday shows and a pair of free weekend shows, generated $339,986 in revenues -- or $160,013 less than had been budgeted.

For the year to date, the Buffalo Place shows have produced $806,786, or $193,213 less than the $1 million that had been anticipated.

“Our revenues are down, but we’ve been able to keep our expenses down, too,” said Michael Schmand, Buffalo Place executive director. “Our concerts are the biggest draw on the waterfront. They have attracted more people to the waterfront, which is exactly what they are designed to do.”

Schmand said the free Thursday shows have been attracting an average of 15,000 to the Central Wharf area. The concerts are on pace for attracting more than 200,000 people of the 700,000 people expected to visit Buffalo’s waterfront and Canalside this summer. Acts booked this summer included Yonder Mountain String Band, Todd Rundgren, the Wailers and the Fixx.

Additionally, the concerts have a huge economic impact on downtown. Buffalo Place estimates for every dollar invested in the concert series, it produces a nearly $7 spinoff effect for downtown destinations like bars and restaurants.

Both Schmand and Keith Belanger, Buffalo Place Inc. chairman, agree the concert series may have to tweaked next year.

“We do have to look at the model and see what needs to be tweaked, so the concerts aren’t that much of a risk,” Belanger said.

The notion of charging a small fee to the concerts is not a new subject. The topic gets broached almost annually by Buffalo Place directors, going back nearly a decade. To date, the downtown organization has resisted tacking an entrance fee onto the Thursday concerts. The weekend shows have been ticketed events for several years.

“Everything is on the table,” Schmand said.

Buffalo Place will be presenting three concerts at Canalside on consecutive days beginning with Thursday’s free show, being headlined by Lotus. Friday’s ticketed show with Pat Benatar and Eric Burdon and Saturday’s starring Matthew Good are both selling well.

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