Concerts costs exceed city's expectations

Brandon Buchanan/The Messenger

During Thursday night’s Tourism Advisory Board meeting, Mayor Kevin Cotton presented the 2019 year-to-date anyalysis of the city’s toursim projects.

Expenses for Madisonville's popular Friday Night Live concert series, 4th Fest and Praise in the Park events have already exceeded the 2019-20 fiscal year budget with one event remaining on the schedule -- the first concert set for June of 2020.

Mayor Kevin Cotton told the Tourism Advisory Board the city's four largest events, which began in July, have cost roughly $400,000 thus far, including more than $177,000 spent on Praise in the Park held earlier this summer. Originally, the city had budgeted $250,000 for the fiscal year, but later amended that figure to $325,000. Approximately $61,000 was raised from sponsors to help offset the expenses, which still would leave the city in the red with one event left to be funded from the current budget.

"Naturally those numbers will be over budget, for sure," he said in an interview prior to the meeting "We'll talk a little bit about that tonight to see what direction they want to go in June next year."

Planning for large national artists and what they required were so much more than the city expected when planning these events, said Cotton.

"It was definitely a learning curve for everybody," he said.

Bringing in a larger stage during Praise in the Park and Fourth Fest was one of the expenses Cotton wasn't expecting. Another expense was losing the Gap Band from August's FNL event. The Gap Band would have been a $15,000 expense. But their tour was canceled due to a lawsuit and another band had to replace them. The band also had to be approved by Sister Sledge. Eventually, the city hired the band WAR for the event, which doubled the expense to $30,000, said Cotton.

At the meeting, the advisory board wanted to know what can they, as a city, do to offset future costs.

"It's something that we'll adjust in next year's budget," said board member Aaron Spencer. "You know there's some unforeseen circumstance that caused it to go over at the last minute. While it is over budget, I think it's something that we can navigate and continue to improve."

Multiple ideas were presented. Some members wanted to reduce the number of events, while others thought that the city should purchase its own stage. Others wanted to see about partnering with the county to see if they could help with larger crowd sizes.

"I just got the numbers yesterday to see what the budget numbers are," said Chairman Adam Townsend. "I believe in the next meeting we will have more concrete numbers."

Even though the city is overbudgeted for this year's events, Cotton is optimistic about next year.

"We're going to be able to move forward next year and know what the right questions to ask are while we're looking at these acts," said Cotton. "I think the community recognizes that these are phenomenal events."

"And when you talk to vendors, they were extremely pleased with the turnout. Hotels were packed, gas stations were selling fuel and restaurants were making money. That's what it's about, these dollars that we're discussing is tourism dollars. That's what it's meant for."

Part of next year's plan to be more fiscally responsible is to book artists much earlier. Madisonville Public Relations Director Skylar Phaup told the committee that booking artist earlier could potentially save the city money as the artist are planning their tour routes.

"Honestly, it's way cheaper if you book them by their tour routes, because you don't pay for airfare," she said. "Some of them don't stay in hotels because they get right back on their bus and on to their next location. That could save thousands."

The tourism board oversees the monies brought in through the city's restaurant tax, The FNL concerts and other performances are paid through those revenues. The concerts, the two held downtown and the two others at City Park, were free events for those attending and attracted thousands to the area.

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