To finance the upkeep of the new $54.5 million Jefferson Performing Arts Center, a $3 fee will be added to the cost of every ticket sold for events there, the Jefferson Parish Council has decided.
Parish President John Young’s administration requested the fee at the suggestion of facility operator SMG, which also manages the Mercedes-Benz Superdome and Smoothie King Center in New Orleans.
Young said such a fee is standard nationwide and will place the burden of paying for the theater’s maintenance on those who use it.
The measure, however, faced opposition from residents disgusted by the fact that the theater was significantly late and over-budget. Initial estimates had the Metairie facility costing $26.6 million and opening by 2009.
Further, detractors said, tax money is supposed to cover the facility’s operations.
But Young said property tax dollars alone aren’t enough to keep up with maintenance of the building, which officially opened earlier this month with a gala event.
“It’s a public building — it’s never going to make money,” Young said about the theater, which is at 6400 Airline Drive in Metairie, next to Zephyr Field. “But it’s important to maintain it. ... It has to be subsidized. This is common practice. We’re not doing anything out of the ordinary.”
SMG has similarly priced ticket surcharges at all of the facilities it operates, according to Councilman Paul Johnston, whose district includes the performing arts center.
Shortly before he and his colleagues voted unanimously Wednesday in favor of implementing the fee, Johnston made a lighthearted remark that there was an immediate need for the fee money. Six of the 10 design lights in front of the theater were not functioning by the time those who attended the grand opening gala were leaving.
Johnston said Thursday that a landscaping crew had inadvertently cut a wire feeding power to the lights, and the situation had since been fixed.
Productions staged by the Jefferson Performing Arts Society are scheduled to begin Sept. 24 with the Lerner and Loewe musical “My Fair Lady.”
Officials say the facility is state-of-the-art and also is suited to host traveling shows, recitals, graduations and other similar events.
The Parish Council named the theater inside the performing arts center after former state Sen. Ken Hollis, a Metairie Republican who succeeded in getting millions of dollars for the facility from the Louisiana Legislature before dying of cancer in 2010.