Pier Six management has improved Public or private?: Decision to keep concert venue in city's hands appears to be best.


HAVING DRASTICALLY reduced losses at the Pier Six Concert Pavilion, the Baltimore Office of Promotion has earned the right to continue managing that facility. If it can end this summer's concert season in the black, BOP will have proved the city was right to entrust it with management of the Inner Harbor facility.

That did not always appear so. Pier Six was deeply in debt in 1995 when the Baltimore Office of Promotions took it over from the Baltimore Center for Performing Arts, which had its hands full running the Mechanic Theater. The state assumed $1.9 million in loan guarantees and the city absorbed another $1.1 million of Pier Six debt, but it still ended that first season under BOP management $300,000 in the hole.

BOP Executive Director Bill Gilmore says much of that debt was incurred in buying a new sound system, repairing leaky plumbing and cleaning up the place. That first year was an education for BOP, which had never booked 20 or more acts to fill a concert season. It learned from its mistakes and in the process earned a better reputation among often unscrupulous music promoters and agents.

Its second season was more successful. Average attendance increased to 2,200 patrons per show compared with 1,700 in 1995. Gross revenues for last season reached $1.2 million, meaning a net loss of only $100,000. Mr. Gilmore now believes Pier Six can produce a profit this season and begin paying off some of its debt.

If that happens it should put to rest any remaining concern about BOP's ability to run the concert venue, in addition to its other duties. With a full-time staff of 25, the Baltimore Office of Promotions is responsible for such annual events as the Farmer's Market, Preakness Parade and Fourth of July fireworks display.

Two events management companies, Service America Corp. and Center Management, did study the Pier Six operation last fall but, according to Mr. Gilmore, they concluded they could not save the city money. Center Management said its fee would likely be more than the $100,000 in losses BOP had incurred.

BOP must continue to learn. It must book more acts like Maze featuring Frankie Beverly, last year's biggest concert draw with 4,343 patrons. If it does, Pier Six will make money while Baltimore enjoys the sounds of summer.

Pub Date: 2/13/97

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