Wednesday April 11, 2007

Michael Hardy's Herald essay about the Carnival Center


Michael Hardy’s Herald essay about the Carnival Center. I suspected that not pointing out he was the center’s director was a part of the Herald’s head-up-ass approach to their website, and that he was so identified in the print edition, as Henry confirms. The essay goes point by point through some of the complaints the Center has received, most of them just routine first-year pains.

I agree that it’s a little disingenuous of Hardy to imply that the tax money that has gone into the center is “not taxpayer money,” and he’s been taken to task. But the bed-tax aspect is worth remembering, and looking at this from the perspective of decades, it’s very possible that the center will pay for itself with the economic revitalization it has very obviously begun to bring (contrast that with the three or four stadiums we’ve built so far with the bed tax).

But I think part of the reason there is so much
hostility is that several completely different things are being conflated when we talk about the “Carnival Center.” Primarily, there is the lingering pain of a construction project run several hundred million dollars over budget at the taxpayers’ (sorry) expense. But of course the organization of which Michael Hardy is director had nothing to do with that. There is the building, and there is the organization that currently manages the building. There are plenty to be blamed for the botched construction project — the county government, the architect, the general contractor, etc., but obviously the arts administrators running the facility didn’t have anything to do with that. (And let’s remember that a not insignificant portion of the expanding construction costs was due to increases in building materials that effected construction worldwide.)

Same goes for the current parking fiasco, which should have been addressed at the earliest stages of planning by the visionaries (I almost used that word in quotes, but let’s do give them some credit) who were pushing for this project for decades.

Another source of frustration is traffic around the center. Let me tell you that the Heat fans going to the American Airlines Arena certainly do share some of that frustration. From what I’ve seen walking around the area on a couple of super-busy nights, the police do a piss-poor job of managing the traffic, but it’s worth remembering that Biscayne Boulevard is undergoing major roadwork in that area.

What I think is that the Center’s programming is spot-on. It’s diverse, with plenty of broad appealing programs (musicals and Broadway were always part of the plan) as well as lots of high-art and esoteric things. The problems are on the marketing/outreach side, and while Hardy is correct that word-of-mouth and time are the two most important factors in increasing attendance, there are some obvious things the Center should be looking at (fix the !@#$% website), and some not-so-obvious solutions it should be looking for. Maybe re-thing the print-ad blitz and bring in some fresh ideas for marketing. The center is doing lots of public outreach, but I suspect that’s the area that needs to be beefed up. Maybe some of that radical transparency would help (Hardy’s essay is a good first step).

I like the fact that the Herald can run a ‘things are pretty bad’ article alongside the essay. But I think of it this way — the Carnival’s start has been messy, and if anything there still isn’t enough blame falling on the people who screwed things up. But I think a rocky start is part of the beginning of anything really great. We could have built a smaller, cheaper, less ambitious performing arts center (almost everyone agrees that something along these lines needed to be built), but is that really what Miami deserved?

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  1. Joel Daphnis    Sat Apr 14, 07:33 PM #  

    Michael Hardy is forced to defend the Carnival Center massive cost overruns, lack of planning and bad programming. He needs to get the taxpayers to keep pouring money into the rat hole so he keeps getting paid.

    Now the promoters of the Miami Art Museum demand taxpayer money so they can take over public waterfront park land and they can get paid. And guess what? They do not include parking in their budget. Is history repeating itself?

  2. alesh    Sun Apr 15, 02:55 PM #  


    I’d be curious to hear you explain what you mean by “bad programming.” What is it specifically that you would change?

    Also, have you seen the budget for the new MAM building? If not, what makes you think parking isn’t part of the plan?

  3. Joel    Thu Apr 19, 04:49 PM #  


    We hear that the PAC Center bookers do not book acts that appeal to enough people. Then we read there are constant problems with the parking. The parking problems were all predicted many years ago. And we hear of price gouging of the parking customers. People are not very excited to visit the PAC Center.

    Miami Art Museum did submit a budget to the City of Miami. It included $19+ Mil for consultants (friends) and it did not include parking. Seem like the PAC Center again?

  4. alesh    Thu Apr 19, 05:07 PM #  


    The PAC books some acts for their popularity and some acts for their artistic merit. The latter do not sell out as often as the former. Does that mean they should stick strictly to the blockbusters? I sure hope not. The parking is $15 to $20: a pain in the ass, but not out of the ordinary for events taking place in downtown. Like I said, I personally have never had a problem parking there.

    I still don’t know where you’re seeing the budget for the art museum — I sure haven’t heard of it being released. I guess it wouldn’t make sense for them to have parking in the budget, since there presumably will not be a parking lot in Bicentennial park. I sure hope they’re talking about parking, and will have a plan in place before they start building. Otherwise I’ll join you in calling them all sorts of names.

  5. Joel    Thu Apr 19, 07:15 PM #  

    The public is talking about parking. We see letters in the Herald and other publications almost daily complaining about parking at the PAC Center. Now we read the taxpayers might have to pay another $100 Mil to provide parking for the PAC Center. Why wasn’t this budgeted and planned earlier?

    The Miami Art Museum did not include parking in their recent request for $2 Mil from the City of Miami. They included a budget showing millions to consultants (friends). You can see the budget among the attachments on the City of Miami website. Doesn’t the Miami Art Museum have donors? Where is their money? Where will the visitors park? Who will pay for the parking for the visitors?