Mann Center selling naming rights to everything from a single seat up to the whole venue
By Peter Dobrin | The Philadelphia Inquirer
The Mann Center for the Performing Arts is nearing an ambitious fundraising goal it set in 2014, and is now offering naming rights for everything from individual seats to the entire venue to close the final gap.
The Mann has brought in donations or pledges of nearly $30 million since 2014, bringing the Fairmount Park venue to nearly 70 percent of its goal for a $43.5 million campaign to fund artistic projects, endowment and cash reserves, and provide badly needed maintenance to its outdoor pavilion.
Mann leaders expect to nail down new gifts totaling $7.3 million, and if these gifts come through, that would “get us then to a remaining $6.4 million that has to be found to bring this campaign to closure,” says Catherine M. Cahill, Mann president and CEO. The hope is to reach the campaign goal 2½ years from now.
To spur the remaining needed donations, the Mann has come up with a list of incentives: naming the pavilion for a corporation or individual ($5 million for a 10-year term), naming the orchestra series ($3 million for five years), yournamehere plaques on individual seats for $500 or $750, and more.
Among the physical aspects of the Mann that could be named if the price is right: pavers, the video screens, the restaurant, dressing rooms, the stage door entrance, the Skyline Stage, the Skyline Lawn — even the fireworks presentation.
“We do have some irons in the fire, and I would say they’re warm,” Cahill says of the more major naming gifts, although the Mann has no current prospects for naming the entire facility.
How much would that cost?
“$25 million is a number that’s been mentioned,” she says, but adds: “I don’t know if that’s reasonable in this marketplace. We think it’s what’s needed, but I think it’s on the high side. There is a misconception that the Mann family [the venue was named for industrialist and arts leader Fredric R. Mann] left serious money to the Mann, and they did not. We certainly know that is an opportunity, but we don’t have anyone right now in that stratosphere.”
The Mann, which is owned by the city but managed by a separate nonprofit with an annual budget of $16 million, has been upgrading its facilities and grounds for a decade. It opened in 1976 as a summer stage for the Philadelphia Orchestra, which ends this year’s two-week run there on Thursday playing, live to screen, the score to Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban and on Friday in an all-Gershwin concert.
The current campaign seeks to raise money being spent in three categories: $11 million for physical improvements, of which the entire amount has been raised or committed; $5.4 million for endowment and reserve funds, of which about $250,000 has been raised; and $27 million to fund artistic and special initiatives, of which $18.4 million has been paid or pledged.
Funding for artistic initiatives will pay for presenting costs associated with hosting orchestras like the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, and the orchestra of the Curtis Institute of Music, as well as the thematic festivals the Mann has produced in each of the last several years.
That pool of money would also fund a four-year project to collect and organize the archive of the Mann, which for most of its four-plus decades hosted the biggest names in the classical world before turning more to pop and other acts.
In addition, the artistic initiatives part of the campaign would help enhance the Mann’s website and fund a study that would look at the feasibility of the Mann greatly expanding its mission by building a summer institute of some ambition for music education.
The physical aspects of the Mann are in the midst of the $11 million in repairs and improvements, of which $7 million has been provided by the city. Already complete is structural work on the roof and the installation of a new video screen by the Independence Grill.
Work begins in October to replace all 4,600 seats in the main house with new seats, equipped with cup holders, and to refurbish box seating, add two video screens to either side of the stage, and improve air circulation in the balcony. Workers will also restore parts of the “terne metal” exterior on the pavilion that have become discolored through water escaping a gutter system believed to have a design flaw.
The video screens will carry the action on stage, but also communicate with audiences in the event of weather- or security-related emergencies.
The endowment and cash-reserve part of the campaign would give the Mann a buffer. Currently, the Mann has an endowment of just $1.2 million. Ideally, according to the industry rule of thumb, the Mann would have an endowment equal to four times its operating budget, but the goal for the moment is to have an endowment of $2 million by the end of the campaign.
What would the Mann be able to do if it raised the entire $27 million?
“Summer educational institutes for young people, long-term planning with co-commissions with other summer festivals, innovative works that would embrace new technology,” says Cahill, who has been chief at the Mann for a decade.
“We could bring visiting ensembles, we would love to do some Shakespeare in the Park,” she says. “Wouldn’t it be wonderful to partner with the Public Theater? We don’t do much in the way of dance. We don’t do any opera. We’d love to do a week or two of Broadway.
“We’ve talked about festivals — wine and food festivals, jazz festivals. All it takes is resources, and you have to be prepared to take artistic risks. We are very, very limited here in terms of taking artistic risks in virtually anything we do that we haven’t fund-raised for.”
Could the Mann, with another $27 million in its pocket, do all that?
Says Cahill: “If we raised $27 million, we could do a heck of a lot. A heck of a lot. ”