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Forte: $1 fee invests in The Capitol Theatre experience

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A view from the stage at The Capitol Theatre.

Along with music director and musicians, there are few resources more fundamental to the success of a symphony orchestra than the space in which it performs. The Yakima Symphony Orchestra depends heavily on our home venue, The Capitol Theatre, to deliver the services and amenities expected of a modern performance facility while maintaining the charm of its nearly century-long role as a fixture in Yakima’s cultural life.

This requires ongoing investment on the part of our community. A part of that investment will become suddenly more visible and more reliable beginning July 1 with the reintroduction of a $1-per-seat “patron user fee” that will be added to the advertised cost of each ticket sold for any event at the theater.

While many view The Capitol Theatre and the YSO as interchangeable parts of the same organization, in fact we are entirely different entities. The Capitol Theatre building is owned by the city of Yakima, and as such the city sets aside some funding for major capital improvements to the building through various tax initiatives. The Capitol Theatre Committee, a separate nonprofit entity, is charged by the city to manage the facility on a day-to-day basis, which includes raising its own resources to fund more routine maintenance and upkeep of the building.

While the YSO, like all “guest” organizations, pays a rental fee each time we use the facility, and we are charged for event-specific labor and ticketing services surrounding each of our concert weekends, these “rental revenues” are intended to help defray the event and overhead costs associated with management of the venue during our stay — not the maintenance and upkeep of the building itself. Similarly, ticket sales for The Capitol Theatre’s own programming cannot come close to covering the full expense of preparing and presenting the Capitol Best and similar events, so contributions and sponsorships are necessary in order to make possible the extraordinary programming that they bring to their stage each season. Again, these revenues do not cover basic maintenance costs.

Critical financial resources for the ongoing upkeep and maintenance of theater facilities currently come from the $1-per-seat patron user fee, but this fee has been virtually invisible to theater patrons for the last several years, since it has been folded into the total price of each ticket and collected from renting organizations such as the YSO only indirectly through box office fees.

These fees, however, have not actually covered the cost of ticketing services with a full dollar to spare for the patron user fee. In recognition of this, the theater committee has elected to bring the $1-per-seat fee back out of the shadows and add it separately to each ticket order, beginning next month.

You may notice many of the small improvements and repairs that these fees facilitate, from new carpet and enhanced aisle lighting to new paper-towel holders in the restrooms. But there will be just as many improvements behind the scenes that you don’t see, equally important to the experience of audience and performers alike. While we are encouraging YSO patrons to subscribe prior to June 30 if they want to avoid the extra fees one last time (they will add $11 per seat to each full-season YSO subscription order), in the long run this investment will help keep our city’s premier performance venue operating at the top of its game well into a second century of inspiring performances.

• David Rogers is executive director of the Yakima Symphony Orchestra. Learn more at www.ysomusic.org.

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