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The Role of the Auditorium in

Community Development
Speech delivered by John Garvey, Jr., National League o f Cities, at the 39th Annual
Convention of the International Association of Auditorium Managers. [1974 in San
Antonio]

It is more than coincidence that our two great associations are meeting in this city at the
same time. First, both of our associations were organized in the same year, 1924, we on
December 12 in Lawrence, Kansas and you on December 27 in Cleveland, Ohio.

There is a second significant similarity between our two associations and that is that
both of us are essentially interested in the same thing: assisting our members, you as a
professional association, we as an association of municipalities, in providing the very best
of services for the development and advancement of the communities of our nation.

I think that it is a great thing what your Association is doing, trying to strengthen the
professionalization of the auditorium manager. The ground work you have laid for a
university course in auditorium management, as well as training courses already in the
profession is terrific. It is also interesting to note, for instance, that assistant auditorium
managers are now eligible for membership in your Association. Your Association can be of
invaluable assistance to the governing boards of local government units as they seek in vain
for men of experience to appoint as auditorium managers. Encouraging as you do the
development of younger men to serve as apprentices and then move up the ladder as
managers, is absolutely in the right direction. Keep up the good work.

What I am to talk about to you today is not going to be totally acceptable to you. Each
of us has a different conception of our responsibilities and of the job that needs to be
done in the best interests of the public and the communities we serve. Let me illustrate.

Supposing that I were to ask an auditorium manager to tell me about his auditorium. What
would he say? Would he start out by describing its physical features, such as its seating
capacity, its acoustical features, its 'lighting, its stage and orchestra effects? Or would he
start out by describing what his auditorium has done for his community, what the com-
munity would do if it did not have it, etc.? Are auditorium managers generally more interested
in quoting statistics, such as what the last road show grossed, what some nationally
famous performers had to say about their auditorium, etc., or do they quote statistics on

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how their building is helping the development of their community, what the citizens who use
their auditorium have to say about it, and why they think their building is serving the
best interests of their people?

Now some may say the principal responsibility of the auditorium manager is to his
building and not to his community and that anything that would direct his attention away
from the rigors of the day to day management of it would be wrong. An auditorium
manager or any key municipal official within a local government unit, however, cannot shut
themselves off from their interdepartmental, community, and regional responsibilities.
Auditorium managers have become an important part of their communities; no longer is
theirs just an "indoor" job, the custodian of a building. I disagree with the very title,
"Auditorium Manager"; I like, "Director of Auditorium Services," much better, since it
emphasizes service and not just property that a community owns.

Essentially, the basic package of service you are selling is space. Now what can you do with
the use of space to develop your community? The use of space, too, is just what a city has
to offer for its own development-streets, air rights, undeveloped land, parks, etc. Unlike a
Park and Recreation Department, you do not have organized programs to schedule into
your space; or unlike your Art Center you do not have organized programs and art
showings. All you can offer is space-clean, set-up, ready-to-go.

One of the objectives of your Association is to "Promote and develop the use of the
auditorium along definite lines of entertainment and public advancement." Now what does
all that mean? It means that you have both a management and promotion responsibility and
your concern should be entertainment and the advancement of those interests which are in the
public interests. To "promote" does not mean just to "sell"; it also means the creation of
new markets -uses for your auditorium your community never thought of.

Your Association's Code of Ethics specifies that you must serve "to the advantage of the
community"; note that it does not say "to the advantage of the building." Further, the
IAAM Code states that "the function of the building is at all times to serve the best
interests of the people," and so therefore the welfare of the citizenry served by your
auditorium is also your concern. What would your citizens say if they were asked to ballot
on whether your building is serving their "best interests"? Your Code goes one step
further, stating that the manager should consider it "his duty to prove his ability and
usefulness." His usefulness to whom? To everyone of course. Your possibilities are as
unlimited as the scope of your assignment. An auditorium is not an end in itself; rather,
it is a means to an end.

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Earlier, I mentioned the fact that an auditorium, as a municipal department, like any other
municipal department, cannot stand off, isolated by itself. Stop and think for a moment how
closely interwoven the operation of your auditorium is compared with other city operations.
The auditorium manager has many responsibilities in addition to the actual operation of his
building. Auditorium management work is complex and there are no two ways about it. The
position itself requires irregular hours including night and weekend schedules and frequent
conferences with prospective lessees. This requires a manager of above average personality
with the ability to confer with top executives of any organization. The auditorium manager
must also be familiar with the terminology of the theatrical profession and have a practical work-
ing knowledge of all phases of theatrical operation including production, lighting, box office,
house management, etc. But the job does not stop there. The auditorium manager must be
an administrator and it is up to him to promote and to schedule events into his building
keeping it as active as he can. The auditorium manager, at the same time, must also maintain
the best possible relationships with the public and city officials and to do this he must be a part
of the community.

Now, to be a part of the community and to know how he can "serve to the advantage of
the community" as is set forth in your Code of Ethics, it seems to me he first needs to
know what the goals of his city are. In other words, what kind of a city is wanted?

Many times auditorium managers find their opinions on total community needs sought
after and they are asked to serve on a staff committee or an advisory committee to the
mayor or to the city manager, thinking about the real long term needs of the city. It
seems to me that in order for an auditorium manager "to serve to the advantage of the
community" as stated in the IAAM Code, he needs to look beyond the lobby of his
building. Auditoriums can change the quality of life in a community; their maximum use
belongs in the long range goals of every community.

An auditorium facility is essentially a community resource. It can tie into community


goals and objectives in so many ways that you and I could be here the rest of the
morning just trying to identify the many ways in which this could be done. Let me give you
six examples of how an auditorium can assist in community development.

1. How does your auditorium help the industrial development program in your city?
"Industry" to a municipality covers a wide range of possibilities. For instance, if the industry
of your city is tourism, as it is here at Miami Beach, then an auditorium is absolutely
indispensable. If industry in your community is manufacturing or service-related then an
auditorium can be well adapted to encourage training, displays of products, employer-

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employee activity, etc. And don't think for a moment that industrialists in searching for a
new community in which to locate do not concern themselves with the amenities and
public facilities of the community.

2. Let us suppose that your community has as one of its goals a forward looking program of
urban renewal setting forth a comprehensive approach to the removal of blight. Should you
concern yourself with such plans? How do you think they could affect your auditorium
operations? Do you know, for instance, that it might be possible for your city to acquire
federal aid on a proportionate share of an auditorium facility or expansion of an
auditorium facility, if such a facility is built within a project area? Do you also know
that your city may be eligible for interest free planning advances to finance preliminary,
final or complete planning of an auditorium facility? Did you know too that it is possible
to develop some land around the auditorium, under the open spaces program? Such land
could be developed in a park-like mall atmosphere and could, it is believed under certain
agreements, even be used for temporary displays, art shows, as an adjunct to your
operations. Those auditorium managers who are aware of such possibilities assist in the
community's development.

3. What have you as an auditorium manager done about concerning yourself with your
community's long term plan of improved inter-governmental relations? What role do you see
for your auditorium as a means of stimulating more frequent meetings of municipal
officials within your metropolitan area; more workshops and institutes on matters of common
interest? Intergovernmental relations and the use of auditoriums to encourage and develop
them isn't as far apart as you may think. Auditoriums had their very origin in early town
meeting houses. It's time that we start coming back to more of that.

4. Another long term objective of your community will, if the experiences of most other cities
can be followed, be a genuine concern for the improvement of the central business district.
Now this may not be something you can do unless your building is already located in an
area adjacent to the central business district or in the event your community is considering
the building of a new auditorium soon. One of the very important needs that your
auditorium and the central business district have in common is adequate off-street parking
and fortunately for most of the days in the year the peak needs for off-street parking for
the central business district and the auditorium are not the same, thereby making it
possible for both to use the same facility: one in the daytime, one at night. Another very
important value an auditorium has with respect to its central business district is to serve as
the market place where the citizenry and the city's merchants can exchange ideas on
merchandising techniques through the use of special showings, institutes, etc.

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5. An item of great, great concern to the cities of America today is: what will the future
of the downtown be? An auditorium, for instance, can play an awfully important role in
helping to preserve and strengthen the role of Downtown America. Downtown is for people
and so are auditoriums. An auditorium can be an anchor, a magnet to attract the people
to downtown. It can project the gaiety and the cheerfulness that want to make the people
come into the city and once there, to linger there. Our auditorium can reflect the flavor
of a community, its feeling; it is a vital part of the everyday community. There seems to
be a great opportunity for civic auditoriums to strengthen or revive the old festivals and
public ceremonies that have taken place historically around the city's central plaza. Let the
auditorium help the community retain as much "local color" as it can. Somehow the
gaiety of the old market square must be retained and there may be a role here for your
auditorium. It has to become a focal point of the community, the place where crowds and
activities converge in your community. The auditorium must be the place to go to see
"everybody in town." Every city is different with its own peculiar combinations of past and
present, climate and topography, as well as accidents of growth. The challenge is to be able
to capitalize on the city's unique qualities. The role of the auditorium in helping the city
exploit these qualities is unlimited.

6. Another tremendously important opportunity for the auditorium is to help improve the
quality of the American culture at the community level. The United States has pioneered
in the development of an industrial society. It is committed to material progress, ac-
companied by spiritual and intellectual ferment and an appreciation of the arts. What is the
role of the auditorium in helping to bring our cultural standards into balance with our
material well being? The cultural life of the people of our community must be sought out.
It must be encouraged, guided and sustained. Local government and its auditorium has a
role in the development of our democracy's cultural life. The opportunity exists for
creative innovation. The enhancement of the arts should be a significant goal in every
community. The auditorium has an opportunity to help the community to create a way of
life that will not be won on the basis of economic satisfaction alone, but on the basis of
an inward equality, something more genuinely satisfying to the citizenry.
I guess all of the aforementioned examples of community development responsibilities really
boils down to what an auditorium manager considers to be his promotion and public
responsibility. True, it takes considerably more time to go out and generate community
interests and to call to the attention of community officials the use of auditorium space
the community or its citizens never even thought possible. It's much simpler to be able to
sit down across the table and negotiate a commercial booking or the renewal of a contract

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with regularly scheduled events. Not only it is easier, but it is more profitable in terms of
revenue received and staff time needed to service the event.

But this comes down to one of the critical questions. Do our auditoriums exist only for
profit? Perhaps we ourselves make it so because of our strict devotion to profitable
booking schedule. It seems to be that if a citizen wants to find out what an auditorium costs
him and his community, the last place he should look is at the municipal budget or
financial statement. True, one can find a line item in such reports as the amount of fees and
charges collected last year, or what you had to pay when you bought those new seats, or
repaired that roof, or gave that salary increase, but it seems to me that an auditorium
should not be made to make money. Any community considering the construction of an
auditorium should realize that and go into it with its eyes opened. The greatest benefits of an
auditorium are intangible benefits which I defy anyone to find in any municipal budget.
Also, it is a mistake to attempt to trace the amount of support an auditorium receives by
reason of property tax support when the real benefit of an auditorium is more than property
tax oriented; it relates to sales tax revenues, business license taxes, parking meter fees, etc.
Its benefits can be found showing up all over town: in retail sales, lodging, meals,
theatrical personnel, sign shops -even the shoe shiners benefit. An auditorium therefore, may
not "make a profit" in a city's budget but it will when the community's total budget is
added up-private as well as public accounts.

Auditorium managers are just as guilty as most all other municipal services in not
seizing upon the total opportunity available to them to develop better understanding to the
ways in which their building or their department or their services help the city
economically, socially and governmentally. Earlier I mentioned the possible role of an audi-
torium manager in concerning himself with matters of community developmental interest such
as industrial development, urban renewal, intergovernmental relations, etc. I also mentioned
the many cited responsibilities of an auditorium manager. Now putting both of these
together the thing a community needs to realize that given a good auditorium manager
they have in their man the qualities that very, very few municipal officials have. By that I
mean: what other municipal official, save possibly the mayor or the city manager, has the
organizational capabilities and can see the dimensions of a problem, lay it out and
systematically accomplish it? The City Planning Department may even be misnamed for
where do you find a better "planner" than in an auditorium manager. There is a great need
in our communities today across the nation for a public information service to acquaint
the citizenry with day to day happenings and the changing needs of the city. Now I ask
you: find me a better man in the city government, again outside of the mayor and the city

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manager, where you have a man who is more conscious of public relations than an auditorium
manager and I'd like to shake his hand. Where an auditorium manager may be found on a
city's organization chart may vary, but his potential community influence and impact will
not.

Now what are we doing with all of this talent? How do we stimulate and motivate
auditorium managers away from the age old concept of a "building manager?" Anybody
can look out after a building, but not everybody can make that building look out after the
community.

Oftentimes auditorium managers come on the scene in a community too late to do anything
about some of the basic things that they are ultimately held responsible for. For instance,
who decided that the auditorium should be located where it is? It may be totally
inadequate with respect to accessibility, parking, etc. Who decided that the auditorium
should be designed in the manner that it was? Perhaps it fits the maximum needs of the
community; perhaps it does not. Why has the community followed certain policies of use
related to the charges to be made by the auditorium?

Too, oftentimes a community when it gets the idea that it wants an auditorium is less than
enthusiastic, perhaps even its leadership is divided amongst itself, some feeling that there
are other ways in which a city's revenue could be used to better advantage. So the
history of how an auditorium came about in a community, where it got its major support,
what its hopes and objectives were when it was being sold to the community by means of a bond
issue, are all types of background information that an auditorium manager should keep in
mind as he makes his day-to-day decisions on the "use of the building to serve the best
interests of the people."

An auditorium can mean many things to many people and the best time to find this out
is when the community is trying to sell an auditorium bond issue to the community. Some
citizens see in it a gathering place for families, neighbors and children; others, a focal
point of civic pride; others, a place where their children will participate in pageants and
festivals produced by schools and churches; others, where the activities of the city will
center, prosper and grow; others, see in it an opportunity to host countless new visitors to
their city; others, feel that an auditorium offers the possibility of coming closer together
with their fellow citizens thereby widening their understanding and enlarging their
educational and cultural horizon.

The promise of a new auditorium is indeed great. But too, oftentimes cities and

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communities in the rush to build and get into operation a new facility overlook three basic
things which will haunt them later. First, some are willing to pour millions of dollars into
the construction of such an auditorium without a proper basis of study, without proper
counsel as to design and when it is just about ready to open then they realize that a
manager is needed and in their haste, some are willing to hand over the assignment to a
neophyte.

Then there is a matter of the second problem: What will it cost to operate an auditorium?
Will this "cost" include retirement of bonds as well as operating and maintenance
expenses? To what degree is the city willing to support an auditorium operation out of its
general government revenues?

The third major area of neglect at the early stages of development of an auditorium for a community
is the need for a thorough understanding related to the future operating policies of use; rules and
regulations; charges for services; the use of space, etc. If an auditorium is built as a joint facility
to be shared by several local units of government, such as cities and schools, a careful review
should be made as to the state laws governing school property, municipal property to see to it that
areas of conflict will not arise. Should there be differences in policy between commercial and
community use? In the establishment of policies governing the operation of an auditorium a
statement should set forth the community objectives which the auditorium should attempt to
accomplish.

For an auditorium to finish its budget year in the red is not at all embarrassing, if that
auditorium had served its community well and filled a real community need. To be in the red is
not as embarrassing as to be in the black. Blackened or idle from non-use, a community resource,
like an auditorium, that is not used by the community has no value to it. Your number one
problem it seems, is to convince and to assist your community to use its auditorium resource to
the maximum of its potential.

The role of the auditorium in community development is multi-phased as I have indicated. In


summarizing however, an auditorium should be as valuable to its community as possible by
simply becoming a part of the important decisions regarding its future and the enjoyment of it by
its citizens. As many as possible should be made in it, with it,. around it but not without it. Endear
the community to your services; don't take your community for granted. In the theatrical
profession there's a saying "The Show Must Go On."

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In your profession there should be an equally important saying "The Community Must Go On."
How it goes on is up to you as well as others. Your "Stage" is your community; your "Actors" are
your citizens; your "Role" is community development.

INTERNATIONAL ASSOCIATION OF
AUDITORIUM MANAGERS
20200 ASHLAND AVE.
CHICAGO HEIGHTS, ILL. 60411