This is in regard to the Nov. 16 front-page article, illustrated by a photograph of the Theater District, prominently showing Shea's, with a headline that read, "Artistic success, fiscal failure." I'd like to clarify the position of Shea's Performing Arts Center.
As was correctly stated, Shea's is the major economic engine in the Theater District with an estimated impact of $50 million annually. This season, we expect 450,000 patrons to attend our performances. Over the past few years, we have broadened our audience. Currently, 22 percent of our audience comes from outside Erie and Niagara counties, bringing new dollars from other areas.
Over the past five years, Shea's has completed $21 million in restoration projects, including our stage-house expansion, complete rebuilding of the exterior of the theater, restoration of our Main Street marquee and replacing all of the seats in the theater. More than 30 percent of the costs of these projects was funded directly by Shea's or through our own fund-raising efforts. Included in these Shea's funded amounts were loans from local banks, which are being fully repaid according to the agreed-upon schedule.
In fact, we expect to be debt free within two years. Although federal, state, county and city money was also used to help fund these projects, these monies would not have been available to us without the financial responsibility and commitment of our organization. The government grants that Shea's has received have all been applied for and granted to Shea's or the city specifically for the historic restoration of the theater.
The management and board of Shea's have worked hard to maintain and improve our operating stability. Although we have much yet to do, we have been successful to date in our efforts. By any reasonable measure, Shea's is far from a "fiscal failure." As a not-for-profit entity working to present first-class Broadway and other cultural events at reasonable prices, Shea's can only hope to be marginally profitable or to break even. This, however, is consistent with our mission and how we define fiscal success. We believe that the role of Shea's and other businesses in the Theater District is very important to the economic future of our community.
Anthony C. Conte
President, Shea's Performing Arts Center