Koka Booth Amphitheatre set records this past season, and town leaders are setting their sights higher for the venue’s 15th anniversary.
The Cary Town Council has approved a budget of $738,000 for the amphitheater that will allow it to seek 15 national touring acts in 2015 – four more than this year and the most in the venue’s history.
The spending plan comes after two major concerts sold out this year for the first time, and attendance for N.C. Symphony’s Summerfest – an amphitheater staple – rose nearly 40 percent.
Koka Booth, off U.S. 1 on Regency Parkway, is the town’s main outdoor performing arts facility. It generated about $50,000 more revenue overall than expected this year, or about 30 percent more, Lyman Collins, Cary’s cultural arts manager, said at the Oct. 30 council meeting. The venue’s budget year runs from November to October to more closely coincide with the performance season.
“Revenue and attendance were up in almost every category,” Collins said.
Tickets sold out for the Jack Johnson and Darius Rucker concerts at the amphitheater, which seats about 7,000 people. The Johnson concert was the highest grossing show in the venue’s history, and several concerts drew crowds of about 5,000 people, Collins said.
Every year, amphitheater management sends surveys to residents asking what performers they want to see. The town can’t say which artists it will pursue until the surveys are complete and management finds out which artists will be touring next year.
Meanwhile, locally planned events have drawn well, too.
A record 4,000 people showed up in May to watch the film “Frozen” as part of the “Movies by Moonlight” series at the amphitheater. More than 12,000 people attended the Diwali Festival, the second-highest attendance of all festivals in the amphitheater’s history. The venue also welcomed the new Dragon Boat Festival and food festivals.
Despite its successes, facility managers anticipate that Koka Booth Amphitheatre will again operate at a deficit next year.
The facility operated at a $122,000 deficit this year, down from $150,500 last year. Town staff anticipates that the facility will operate at a $210,400 deficit next year.
The council didn’t take issue with the higher deficit.
Koka Booth Amphitheatre has produced about $2 million in local tax revenues and generated more than $63 million in spending in Wake County since it opened in 2001, according to a recent study by the Greater Raleigh Convention and Visitors Bureau.
“The amphitheater’s the crown jewel of Cary,” Councilman Ed Yerha said.