Make us your home page
Instagram

Bill Edwards has a recipe for Mahaffey's success

ST. PETERSBURG — Take a new manager, mix in $2 million, add 34 extra shows, upgrade dressing rooms and sprinkle with a dash of coconut mango. This seems to be Bill Edwards' recipe for success at Mahaffey Theater.

Since his Big 3 Entertainment started running the city-owned facility in October, 80,000 patrons have come through the doors. That's a 21 percent increase over the same period 12 months earlier and does not include Florida Orchestra attendance. Big 3 has invested more than $2 million of private money into the venue for everything from new carpet to little details like pumping the scent of coconut mango through the air.

The city spent $1.4 million to run and upgrade the theater during its last fiscal year.

Mahaffey hosted an average of 36 main stage shows a year for the past five years, not counting Florida Orchestra concerts. Big 3 has already booked 42 shows, and Edwards expects to present a total of 60 by the end of his first 12 months in charge. He wants to double the number of school students who visit programs at the theater to 50,000 a year. Big 3 has also started a membership program selling various packages of tickets and perks for $100 and up.

Starting in October, a Titanic exhibit will fill 6,000 square feet on the theater's second floor with artifacts recovered from the luxury liner that sank 100 years ago. Edwards expects about 100,000 people to visit during the five-month engagement. The same collection will be displayed in Chicago, Toronto and San Diego.

While talking to the Tampa Bay Times editorial board this week, Edwards and his managing director Joe Jimenez pointed out that the true test of their bookings will not happen until 2013, when they have attendance data from 2012 to show entertainment agents.

"Agents don't care how much money you put on the table," Edwards said, if there is a chance the venue won't be full and their client won't shine. The first thing they want to know when trying to book their act is previous attendance numbers for a comparable act. Many aren't interested in coming to St. Petersburg when they hear numbers from the pre-Edwards reign, he said.

At least one entertainer who did play Mahaffey in the past vowed never to return based on the dismal dressing rooms. Edwards didn't name the star but said the new furniture, lighting, floors and more upgrades in the renovated dressing rooms make a big difference if it's an entertainer's first and only impression during a three- or four-hour stop in St. Petersburg.

The city and Mahaffey will get national exposure when America's Got Talent holds auditions at the theater April 2, 3 and 4. When the auditions judged by Nick Cannon, Sharon Osbourne, Howie Mandel and Howard Stern are aired shortly after taping, there will most likely be footage of the city itself.

"I think with that overview shot of the Dalí, Mahaffey and the waterfront, it's fabulous," Jimenez said.

Katherine Snow Smith can be reached at (729) 893-8785 or kssmith@tampabay.com.

Bill Edwards has a recipe for Mahaffey's success 01/31/12 [Last modified: Tuesday, January 31, 2012 6:23pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Kidpreneurs — and adults — capitalize on gooey, squishy Slime craze

    Retail

    First it was Play-Doh. Then Gak. There have been dozens of variations for sale of the oozy, gooey, squishable, stretchable kids' toy through the generations.

    Aletheia Venator and Berlyn Perdomo demonstrate the stretchiness of their slime. - Berlyn Perdomo and her friend, Aletheia Venator, both 13, make and sell slime which can be seen on their instagram site @the.real.slimeshadyy [JIM DAMASKE   |   Times]
  2. The last farmer of Florida's prized Zellwood corn is thinking of packing it in

    Consumer

    MOUNT DORA — Hank Scott steps out of his pickup between the long rows and snaps off an ear that grows about bellybutton-high on the forehead-high stalks.

    Hank Scott, co-owner of Long and Scott Farms, shucks an ear of corn on the farm in Mount Dora, Fla., on Wednesday, May 10, 2017. The farm specializes in Scott's Zellwood Triple-Sweet Gourmet Corn. LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times
  3. Law firm's Russia ties prove nothing about Trump

    Business

    The statement

    "Law firm @POTUS used to show he has no ties to Russia was named Russia Law Firm of the Year for their extensive ties to Russia. Unreal."

    Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., stands during a media availability on Capitol Hill, Monday, June 20, 2016 in Washington. A divided Senate blocked rival election-year plans to curb guns on Monday, eight days after the horror of Orlando's mass shooting intensified pressure on lawmakers to act but knotted them in gridlock anyway — even over restricting firearms for terrorists. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)
  4. Pasco county lawyer disbarred for taking woman's money

    Real Estate

    NEW PORT RICHEY — The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday disbarred Pasco County attorney and former congressional candidate Constantine Kalogianis.

    The Florida Supreme Court on Thursday disbarred Pasco County attorney and former congressional candidate Constantine Kalogianis. 
[2016 booking photo via Pasco County Sheriff's Office]
  5. Rick Scott signs package of tax breaks

    State Roundup

    TALLAHASSEE — Gov. Rick Scott signed a tax cut package Thursday that — while vastly scaled back from what he wanted — eliminates the so-called "tampon tax" and offers tax holidays for back-to-school shoppers and Floridians preparing for hurricane season.

    Florida Governor Rick Scott signed a tax cut package that will cost state coffers $91.6 million during the upcoming year. [Joe Raedle | Getty Images]