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City weighs reduction of Capella rental fee

Brookings city councilors are considering whether to lower the rate charged to users of the Capella by the Sea at Azalea Park, particularly for organizations that bring visitors to the area.

The question was posed by Scott Graves, board chairman of Stagelights Musical Arts Community, a Brookings-based nonprofit organization that promotes professional concerts and music education in the community.

“It’s tough out there,” Graves told councilors in a work session Tuesday afternoon. “It (the fees) can be done, but it’s a challenge. Stagelights is on a tight shoestring budget.”

The organization works collaboratively with local venues, paying about $50 in rent to host community concerts and music events.

The Capella, Graves said, could be another option for Stagelights, if the current price was reduced.

The city charges $100 an hour with a two-hour minimum to use the Capella. Last year, it was the venue for 13 weddings, one family reunion and two concerts. Another popular summer event held in the park is the series of concerts hosted by the American Music Festival, which doesn’t pay a fee for the use of the band shell, Milliman said.

The Capella by the Sea is similar, except in size, to Thorncrown Chapel near Eureka Springs, Ark., which prides itself on being the “Wedding Capital of the South,” Milliman said. Brookings does not have that kind of reputation to fuel use of its Capella.

Brookings resident and retired Hollywood producer Elmo Williams paid for construction of the local venue and donated it to the city to honor his late wife.

On Tuesday, councilors debated whether a “gift” should be used to raise money for the city.

“That way the parks would have more money to do more work in the parks,” said Brookings Parks Director Tony Baron. “Every time we make an exception, we are (financially) cut off. People ask why we don’t mow the lawns more often; that’s why.”

This summer, city officials agreed to charge Stagelights’ $50 to rent the Capella for an August concert featuring Grammy Award-winning finger-style guitarist Bill Mize. The event attracted 38 people to the Capella, which has a capacity of 40. The $50 rent covered the cost of a city-contracted worker to open and close the venue, and to do any necessary cleaning.

“This last concert was kind of an experiment for the Capella and Stagelights,” said Mayor Ron Hedenskog. “It was very pleasant. I had a lot of compliments as far as the acoustics.”

The Capella is a difficult structure to maintain, Baron said. Without staffing, even cleaning the windows in the tall, steep building has fallen to him. And he can’t access those windows with machinery because of the building’s unique design.

Baron urged the city to avoid foregoing the revenue it already has coming in.

He said organizations that want to use the facility should consider obtaining sponsorships from businesses throughout town.

“It would take little effort to get four sponsors — I could get four sponsors by the end of tonight,” Baron said. “You have to draw the line somewhere. You’re defeating yourself by giving it away. Don’t lose the revenue you’ve got coming in.”

City staff will research the idea of reduced fees for nonprofits and address it at a later meeting. 

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