When the City of Grand Haven asked Gary & Michelle Hanks to bring a new concert series to Grand Haven and the Lynne Sherwood Waterfront Stadium, they thought they were doing something special for the community. Turns out, it was a huge mistake - a mistake that is costing the organization and its founders everything.
Courtyard Concerts (a 501c3 organization that was founded in 2013 to bring music to the community) believed that we had community and City support. The budgets were super conservative and supported a margin of error of over $160,000 - or 40% of the total budget. And this didn't consider any concessions, donations, or sponsorships. Coming out of COVID, everyone involved in the concerts was optimistic that ticket sales from 2019 series should be the start of 2022 sales. and there was still room for error.
As a community organization, we agonized over every detail, including the pricing. We needed to keep the ticket prices as low as possible while covering our costs and mitigating our risk. The venue required significant support to turn it into a concert venue that would fulfill artist riders which meant our per concert budgets were approximately $100,000. We looked at other regional outdoor concerts and priced our tickets and concessions below. We believed that if these were truly designed to use a community resource, we had a responsibility to our community.
We ran into 4 particular challenges that resulted in losses to the organization in excess of $100,000:
1) Community support was lacking with meager ticket sales, 13%-45% of the original 2250 tickets - less than 30% of the total tickets printed. (There is still one concert remaining and tickets are available.)
2) Changes to our access to the Depot (the onsite building previously used to support these concerts) was very limited due to businesses relocated from another location to the depot. We lost over 11,000 square feet of outside area with a complete loss of artist support area.
3) The City capacity estimate was incorrect. Budgets were based upon 2250 ticket sales. The actual capacity is closer to 1500.
4) A change in city management meant that many decisions were delayed - in certain cases with only days to properly respond. In addition, the day of our first concert the City made a mistake and electricity was delayed in our concessions area for over 3 hours resulting in the loss of one of beer trailers. This cost us both in terms of dollars and perception in the community.
Proceeds from the concerts were intended to fund a free Friday night concert series in the same location, as well as music at local Farmers markets and other organization goals.
We did go to our community and asked for help. The overall response was "this is so sad that this is happening" but resulted in no financial support.
The founders of the organization are supporting the shortfall through personal and business loans for the short term. They must sell their venue (which is also their home) to fund the shortage in the long term.
We are asking for your help to fund the shortfall and minimize what Gary & Michelle Hanks, the organization's founders, must fund through the sale of their home and music venue building. The organization will cease all community support after September 2022. Any amount helps.
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- Robert & Carrie Chase
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Spring Lake, MI
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