Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Carnival Center for the Performing Arts: Stop the Hemorrhaging Now!

Enough already with shoring up Carnival Center. In today's world, unless you own a theatre sans mortgage, the only one making a profit in the performing arts is the theatre owner who leases his space to whatever fool-- excuse us, producer*-- who thinks he can make a buck off his show. Now we learn that the nearly half-billion dollar Carnival Center, only seven months old, needs another $4 million to keep its doors open through summer. This is more than double the yearly estimate of running the complex.

Who is responsible for this woefully low estimate? A man we were told was the best for the position after a nation-wide search: President and CEO Michael Hardy.

MVB urges the commission to accept the fact that Carnival will never make money and to stop the hemorrhaging now by:

  • Refraining from giving Hardy the money,
  • Giving Hardy the axe instead.

Here's why we believe Hardy has to go. The Miami Herald reports the budget is so far off because:

  • Hardy didn't know how to figure out the estimated cost of running the air-conditioning. Instead of figuring costs based on the volume of both performance halls, he estimated electrical costs based on the square footage of the spaces. Most high school students could have given the county the right figures-- at a fraction of Hardy's salary,
  • Knowing how important it was to be frugal with the public's money, Hardy still spent big bucks on outside consultants instead of conferring with the architects or at least county in-house experts in building and zoning. Hardy blames those same consultants for not being able to do the math re estimating the electrical costs to cool the two massive buildings,
  • Failure to budget for police services on show nights. Among other things.

When we hear bureaucrats turning to outside consultants at tax payers expense instead of turning to the professionals in the county and city building and zoning departments, it gives us pause: do they know something we don't know? Isn't anyone qualified enough in those departments to formulate numbers you can count on? If there aren't, shouldn't we be worried?

Maybe Terence Riley, former head of Architecture at MOMA and now the director of the Miami Art Museum, should be cut some slack instead of getting our criticism. After all, he's budgeting for outside consultants ranging from companies who will advise on escalators and elevators ($50,000) to $2.2 million for MEP/FP Consultants (whoever they are) to help Herzog & de Meuron design our new art museum. Maybe he, like Hardy, knows something we don't know. After all, he's at the top in his field too. Miami's intelligentsia was tripping over itself and backslapping itself and depositing air-kisses on its collective cheeks when it was announced we landed the guy who also happens to be a licensed architect.

Which brings us back to the real question: aren't these kinds of things best handled by the architects chosen to design the buildings at considerable expense to the public? If you can't believe your architect of record, who can you believe? Oh, that's right, your consultant-- at considerable expense to the public.

In any event, Hardy's got to go because Carnival can't afford his incompetency. Even if it will never make money, at least it will be managed properly. Art and science museum directors are allowed a little more slack only because their charges are less dynamic income generators. Unless you're booking the Mona Lisa, Bodies or King Tut, museums are never expected to be self-supporting through ticket sales-- especially publicly funded buildings costing more than many countries' GNP. Let's just hope Riley's consultants get the air-conditioning costs right.

UpDate (5/29): Carnival Center will be closed in August and for part of September for "routine maintenance," officials say according to Miami Today. "Albert Milano, who previously served on the Carnival Center's board of directors, said he knew of some construction and maintenance issues that need to be addressed." Yeah, like building a parking garage for one thing.

UpDate (6/14): Riley gets an extra $2 million from Miami city commissioners for his art museum.

UpDate (6/20): The Herald reports today that county manager Burgess blames the deficit on Carnival Center management. No kidding? Still, he recommends that the county commission give Hardy and his incompetent crew the $4.1 million "infusion" they're asking for, which is not surprising considering Burgess' magnificent management style.

UpDate (6/27): The Miami-Dade County Commission caves and gives Carnival $4.1 million to keep it afloat. Although management was criticized and threatened, Hardy and his crew are still at the helm.

*Don't get us wrong. We love producers! The world would be a duller place without them. It takes a rare combination of balls, business sense, and a love of theatre to be successful in that field but no one has those traits in government.

UpDate (10/30): Hardy is fired and replaced with legendary wunderkind Lawrence J. Wilker (JFK Center) and some guy named Scott Shiller for $40,000 a month for 6 months until they or someone else is permanently hired.


Anonymous said...

And the PAC still has no parking...What an unbelievable mess this has turned out to be.

Xavier said...

As terrible as construction planning, operational budgeting, and facility management has been, the PAC has been a major development bolstering factor for the urban core, and in the longterm, will serve as a vital, if not central, component of Miami's cultural fold. Park at the Omni for now anonymous.

Verticus S. Erectus said...

Xavier, we couldn't agree more! We're just saying, "Get a grip! Don't give 'em the money and give the heave ho to Hardy!"