Thursday, May 24, 2018
News Roundup

Mahaffey Theater's update to St. Petersburg City Council is praised

ST. PETERSBURG — Attendance at the city-owned Mahaffey Theater jumped by more than 50,000 in the last fiscal year, says mortgage magnate and music producer Bill Edwards.

Edwards, who took over the struggling venue in 2011, attributed the 34 percent spike to better marketing, theater upgrades and bigger acts.

While recently updating the City Council, Edwards said his firm also reduced operating costs by 39 percent compared to the prior three fiscal years.

"I personally have invested $4 million at no cost to the city or to the taxpayers," Edwards said about venue improvements, marketing and show promotions.

In fiscal 2011-2012, Mahaffey held events on 270 days compared to 220 in the prior period. Those events drew 190,000 guests compared to 142,000 in the earlier year.

In April 2011, Edwards' company, Big3 Entertainment, beat out two other companies to manage and operate the facility. He took over in September 2011.

In the first two months, Edwards said he spent $2 million on new carpet, new bars, a fresh coat of gold paint for the lobbies, 13 plasma TVs, a new website, a splashy ad campaign and upgraded VIP lounges.

Dave Metz, St. Petersburg's downtown facilities director, told the council that Edwards' update is a "good news report" for the city.

Edwards also pointed out that 20,000 students have come through the doors for educational programs.

Upcoming acts include Natalie Cole, the Boston Pops, the China National Symphony and Smokey Robinson.

The improvements haven't come easy.

Critics, Edwards said, called him insane for taking over the Mahaffey. He agreed with them after finding issues like cracked ceilings and tarnished stainless steel throughout the building.

"Truly we didn't know what we were getting ourselves into," he said. "We realized we had a much bigger job than we ever anticipated."

Council members lauded Edwards for saving taxpayers' money.

"Thank you for what you have done," council Chairwoman Leslie Curran said. "We have had great responses from the community."

Council member Wengay Newton, who urged Edwards to hold some gospel events at the theater, pointed out that one of the city's crown jewels is becoming a major draw throughout the region.

"What you've done is nothing short of spectacular," Newton said.

Edwards said he isn't done. He plans to market the Mahaffey to other regions in the country with hopes of luring new business and residents to the city.

He added: "We look forward to a strong and promising new year ahead."

Mark Puente can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 893-8459. Follow him at Twitter at twitter.com/markpuente.

Comments
One day after fatal accident, Tampa moves to lower speed limit on Bayshore Blvd

One day after fatal accident, Tampa moves to lower speed limit on Bayshore Blvd

TAMPA — Tampa officials said Thursday they are reducing the speed limit on Bayshore Boulevard, one day after a mother was struck and killed by a speeding car while pushing her 21-month-old daughter across the city’s signature street.Starting Friday, ...
Updated: 8 minutes ago
A white supremacist killed her twin. Why did she forgive him?

A white supremacist killed her twin. Why did she forgive him?

As a fifth-grader, Aleesha Mance wrote an essay about her sister’s killer, explaining how peer pressure and drugs led the 17-year-old to make a deadly choice. In high school, she searched for his name online. She read news articles about a tee...
Updated: 27 minutes ago

Updated: 1 hour ago
Woman who was raped as a teenager is awarded $1 billion in damages

Woman who was raped as a teenager is awarded $1 billion in damages

Hope Cheston was 14 when, outside a friend’s birthday party in October 2012 in Jonesboro, Georgia, an armed security guard at an apartment complex raped her on a picnic table.For years, she thought she’d be forgotten like countless other sexual assau...
Updated: 1 hour ago
NOAA: Scientists predict 10 to 16 named storms this hurricane season

NOAA: Scientists predict 10 to 16 named storms this hurricane season

Scientists are in consensus: The 2018 hurricane season could be an active one.On Thursday the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released its 2018 Atlantic hurricane seasonal outlook. It’s calling for between 10 and 16 named storms, five...
Updated: 1 hour ago

Updated: 1 hour ago
Editorial: Trump right to cancel North Korea talks on nuclear weapons

Editorial: Trump right to cancel North Korea talks on nuclear weapons

Regardless of the reason, the cancellation of the U.S.-North Korea summit to address Pyonyang’s nuclear program is hardly the worst possible outcome of this high-stakes diplomatic gamble. President Donald Trump was unprepared, North Korea’s Kim Jong ...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Rivals: Only four cities produce more blue-chip recruits than Tampa

Rivals: Only four cities produce more blue-chip recruits than Tampa

Only four cities in the country have produced more four- or five-star prospects in the Rivals era than Tampa.That's according to a little number-crunching from Rivals' Mike Farrell.Tampa has produced 48 blue-chip prospects since the site began in 200...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Bucs union rep Ali Marpet questions legality of the NFL’s new anthem policy

Bucs union rep Ali Marpet questions legality of the NFL’s new anthem policy

Bucs offensive lineman Ali Marpet questioned the legality of the NFL's new  policy that requires players to stand for the national anthem if they are on the field during the performance but gives them the option to remain in the locker room if t...
Updated: 1 hour ago
Column: 30-something and still living at home? You’ve got lots (and lots) of company.

Column: 30-something and still living at home? You’ve got lots (and lots) of company.

A 30-year-old upstate New York man was ordered to leave his parents’ house by a state Supreme Court Justice this week after rebuffing several attempts by his parents to get him to move out.The case of Michael Rotondo has made national and internation...
Updated: 1 hour ago