Made in America fest adds $144,000 to Grand Park events coffers

The recent Made in America Festival, the first big pop concert in Grand Park, generated $144,000 in rental income that will be funneled into increasing regular programming in the downtown park. It’s up to the Music Center, which has a contract to run the county-owned park, to decide how to use the windfall to expand its menu of community-oriented arts and culture events.

“It’s definitely an unexpected amount of money coming in,” said Howard Sherman, the Music Center’s chief operating officer. “We can go back to our programming team and say, ‘What more can we dream about for the public?’”

Most of the events the Music Center puts on in Grand Park are free, but vendors and concessionaires pay fees to sell their wares in the park, and additional money comes in by renting out part of the sloping 12-acre expanse for weddings, film shoots and other private uses.

Going into the fiscal year that began July 1, the Board of Supervisors had estimated in the park’s budget that it would rake in $767,000 from fees and rents — money that could be put back into programming or pay other park-related expenses.

That did not include the then-unforeseen rent that Live Nation, the promoter of the Made in America Festival, paid for using the park for the Aug. 30-31 concerts, plus two days of setting up and taking down stages and other equipment.

The Music Center’s park contract with the county calls for rental income to be funneled directly into programming, such as performances, arts instruction and community festivals.

Upcoming events include this weekend’s finale in a monthly summer series of electronic dance music gatherings called Sunday Sessions, an Oct. 4-5 Festival of Philippine Arts and Culture and a Dia de Los Muertos concert Nov. 1 that will feature music and dance.

But concession fees and rentals probably won’t be enough to cover the cost of a bustling schedule of events, especially if most of them are free. A prosperous park also will need to build a base of reliably generous donors.

On that score there have been some growing pains. One example is the recent cancellation of “Universe of Sound: the Planets,” an unusual digital video and audio simulation of London’s Philharmonia Orchestra playing Gustav Holst’s “The Planets,” conducted by Esa-Pekka Salonen.

It had been scheduled for Sept. 20-28, but the Music Center said a donation it had been counting on to underwrite the installation fell through. Plans to bring “Universe of Sound” to downtown L.A. for its U.S. premiere in a big tent on the park’s lawn had to be abandoned.

The free simulation would have used video projections to make visitors feel as if they were strolling through and interacting with sections of the orchestra while it played Holst’s cosmic suite.
A new, independent Grand Park Foundation was established this year to carry out fundraising to augment whatever the Music Center can muster for programming.

Can pop concert promoters’ rental fees emerge as a steady meal ticket to fund regular park programming?

Sherman said it’s “too soon to say” whether the Music Center will reach out to the concert industry in hopes of turning touring pop royalty into consistent subsidizers of grass-roots performances and events.

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