By Hank McCoy
The decision to reopen Coral Springs Center for the Arts is uncertain at the moment, forcing management to make some difficult changes in the wake of COVID-19.
On May 6, General Manager Bill Haggett and his team at the Coral Springs Center for the Arts made a heartbreaking decision to cancel Next Stop Broadway summer camp. They also furloughed seven of the ten full-time employees as well as their part-time staff that handles events, including the camp.
This comes after The Center had already canceled events with Graham Nash, Paul Ruebens (Peewee Herman), comedian Vic DiBitetto, and comedian Bobby Collins, since COVID-19 forced businesses to close on March 13.
The Center also canceled local dance studio’s recitals and dance competitions scheduled for March and April. Haggett considers this time of the year their strong “community” months where local businesses rent the Center for recitals and competitions.
“It’s heart-wrenching and really hurts the community of parents,” said Haggett. “I’ve been trying really hard to find a way to get reopened to do some of these events for the kids.”
Haggett and his staff thought about a virtual camp for the summer but weren’t comfortable with putting together a program that wouldn’t be worth their camper’s time.
Haggett, who has three children, explains from a parent’s perspective, “We took a step back due to virtual schooling, so we didn’t want to be detracting from what the children need to do with school.”
His team, along with their promoters, are eager to tackle the new normal that will come out of the pandemic.
“We just hope we can sustain until that happens,” Haggett said, “That’s the big question. Hopefully, they pass something that helps everyone moving forward because this could be a long-term situation that could be really devastating.”
The Center is managed by Professional Facilities Management, based out of Providence, Rhode Island, which kept employees on payroll for a little over a month, delaying the need for their employees to file for unemployment.
The management company also looked into obtaining a loan through the CARES Act but found only 20-30 percent of it would be forgiven, making the company responsible for the rest. This resulted in them not taking the loan, according to Haggett.
The Center had hit its stride after going through a bit of a growth period. They were the site of one of Dave Chappelle’s first performances back as a comedian, with the back-to-back shows selling out in 11 minutes.
According to Haggett, the Chappelle shows, along with the Beach Boys and others, put The Center back on the map as a desired venue. People started taking notice of the events Haggett and his team were putting together, so the pandemic couldn’t have hit at a worse time.
“We’ve pushed close to sold out in the past, but we had such demand now, which was really nice, then all of a sudden…that’s it,” Haggett said.
With so much of the future unknown, his team at The Center doesn’t have a “crystal ball” as Haggett explained.
They’re currently working on plans for reopening, and so far, they’ve written up four or five different options, but with the situation so unstable, it’s complicated.
Currently, Haggett’s team’s most significant focus is on the health aspect. They’re trying to find out what they need to do to open and present a safe environment for their customers and give people confidence when visiting The Center.
“If we reduce down to 200 seats, in a 1,471 seat theater,” Haggett said, “That reduction makes it really hard to thread the needle with what we can present to the community, that will be a good experience and doesn’t end up breaking the bank, forcing us to close the theater. That’s a whole other issue.”
With cases spiking throughout the state, there’s no telling when the Center for the Arts will reopen, but Haggett and the team are focused on getting back to serving the community.
“I hope that we can get the Nutcracker in for the holidays, but we’re focusing more on programming for the first of the year.”
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