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Nonprofit may run cultural center
The new Carrollwood facility would be subsidized by the county, but not managed by it.
By AMBER MOBLEY, Times Staff Writer
Published December 8, 2007
CARROLLWOOD - The publicly funded Carrollwood Cultural Center might be managed by a not-for-profit group instead of the county parks department.
And, regardless of who runs it, the center might charge a lot more for its programs than is generally seen at county centers.
The Hillsborough County Commission will consider both ideas at its Jan. 3 meeting.
The complex, built with $7.9-million in community investment tax revenue, was tentatively scheduled to open last month. But county staffing cuts and other factors have delayed the opening until March 2.
Friends of the Carrollwood Cultural Center, the nonprofit group, is interviewing for an executive director.
"The goal is that we complete the interviews this month and hire the director as soon as the agreement is finalized by the board," said group president Tom Jones. The newly hired executive director would then advise the group regarding additional staffing, maybe four or five positions.
The county would subsidize the center with $380,000 annually, allowing the center to operate in the black.
The group plans to generate revenue from class fees, which will be substantially higher than the county class fee of $4 per instructional hour.
"They're going to charge what we would identify as a market-driven price," said parks and recreation director Mark Thornton. While prices have not been set, Jones sees the center charging $100 to $150 for a series of six classes instructed by experienced, degreed professionals.
The organization and the county would split any revenue as the county gradually decreases the subsidy year-to-year "depending on what the Friends bring in," said Thornton.
"This is a similar situation that the Hillsborough County Arts Council has with the city of Tampa at the Tampa Theatre," he said.
In fact, the county approached the Arts Council for surrogate management of the center.
But, once again, budget cuts were a factor.
"It didn't seem fit for us to take on that responsibility at the risk of other organizations, said executive director Art Keeble.
The Arts Council, which supports 28 cultural organizations throughout the county, will continue advising the nonprofit and the county regarding programming, staffing and budget for the complex, two former church properties in Carrollwood.
Staffing, hindered by a county hiring freeze, is just one issue that has delayed the opening. Material acquisitions and labor are taking longer than expected as well, Jones said.
The March 2 grand opening "is just a mark on the wall," Jones said. "It's a pretty good mark."
The Florida Orchestra will perform at the opening, and registration for classes is scheduled to begin March 3 with the first classes staring March 10. Classes offered might include jazz and chamber music, photography and tai chi.
For more than a year, the nonprofit group has been holding concerts at the annex as work finishes on the main center and will continue the concert series there until the grand opening.