Former manager of Centennial Hall Wendie Marriott’s use of numbers can hardly be argued with, objectively speaking, in a recent My Turn she wrote. After all, seat counts from the community’s venues, square footages of existing spaces and the number of dark days at Centennial Hall and the JACC are numbers that can be used for interpretation. But I’d like to break down a couple of her numbers cited and peer at them through another lens.
The number of dark days at Centennial Hall (119) and at the JACC (54) are defined by Ms. Marriot as “… days…in which there is not one single rental in the entire facility.” That may be true, but there are implications in the loaded phrase “not one single rental,” such as, if there is no rental, then there must be nothing happening. So let’s take Centennial Hall’s 119 dark days and read another meaning. If we were to allow Centennial Hall just one day a week to be closed, Sundays say, that would be 52 days of closed door inactivity, leaving 67. If we can be a little bit generous and close for two days at Thanksgiving, maybe five for Christmas and the odd holiday here and there, maybe two?, that’s still 58. Leaving, in a year, 4.8 days per month Marriott considers dark, apparently wasted space.
But, if anyone should, she should know that events don’t appear from nowhere and miraculously evaporate when they’re over. There is preparation before and cleanup after, sometimes a great deal of it. Add to that the general wear and tear of the facility itself and we begin to wonder how we can maintain the upkeep of such a large facility with five days a month. But, forgetting the time “closed” I mentioned above, and doing the math, would even 10 days a month provide enough time for upkeep? Perhaps.
So it may come across as a bit astonishing that the JACC only had 54 dark days from the sample year Marriott cites. Reckoning with the above logic and allowing for just one day closed a week, that would be an astounding two days in a year to allow for upkeep and planning, and recovery from rentals. Keep the doors open year-round we have 4.5 days per month of recovery and upkeep. No wonder its dilapidated state never seems to improve.
Unexpectedly, Marriott pointed out something of which I was completely unaware: the JACC is in very high demand. Why, with so many alternative venues, would this be the case?
As to seat counts, Marriott points out that we have a beautiful, 1,000-seat auditorium at JDHS; true. Though if she’s ever been to a poorly attended production (100-300 audience members, say) the space can seem empty and cavernous, giving the ticket holder and production a distinct lack of enthusiasm. The “beauty” of the TMHS auditorium is debatable but, beautiful or not, it is a single, drive-to destination which isn’t nearby other complimentary venues.
Centennial Hall and the JACC have a history of complimentary functions, with Folkfest and Public Market as two prime examples; an upcoming conference in October will require both. Imagine if a sizable convention could have its daily meetings, break at end-of-day only to reconvene in a nearby theater space, ready-built with the lighting and acoustics in which someone could hold an evening concert or TED talk. Is it really worth the cost of creating a temporary theater in a space that could more readily be a parking lot for a car show?
So much argument against these propositions is based on our perceived economic condition, as though we have a binary, single-step choice that isn’t rife with nuance. This pothole or that education. That sexy, new building or our fairy system. Marriott’s simplified case of numbers just doesn’t give us the depth we need to really consider what these measures could engender. And these days, as our social mores are pushed and pulled to the breaking point, why not build bulwarks that can help shore up the respect for our and our neighbors’ creativity? The fluctuating economy should certainly be considered, but fluctuate it does. What tugs at my concern for this community more than the volatility of money, through this decade and the next, is the much slower ebb-and-flow of our cultural legacy.
• Erik Chadwell is the current technical manager at Centennial Hall.