Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Ruth Eckerd Hall president interested in managing Mahaffey Theater

The president of Clearwater's Ruth Eckerd Hall has been in preliminary talks with St. Petersburg officials about assuming management of the Mahaffey Theater.

SMG, a global venue management firm, beat out Ruth Eckerd four years ago to win the right to manage the Mahaffey, which is in the city's downtown. Under St. Petersburg's contract with SMG, the city has had the right since November to end the agreement with 60 days' notice.

Robert Freedman, president and chief executive of the nonprofit Ruth Eckerd Hall, said the Mahaffey has always been attractive. Joint local management could create "synergies" between the venues, Freedman said.

He's developing a proposal for management of the Mahaffey. Ruth Eckerd's board would have to approve the plan. Freedman said he wasn't sure when it would be done.

"We are trying to do our due diligence as quickly as possible is all I can tell you at this point," he said.

St. Petersburg City Council Chairman Jeff Danner said he would be willing to look at a proposal, but is happy with the way SMG is running the Mahaffey. Danner said the current competition between the two venues has benefits, and he worries where the hot shows would land if both were under the same management.

"Somebody, somehow is always going to be second," Danner said. "I don't know how you could convince me otherwise."

Danner said not all his council colleagues are as pleased with SMG and a decision was recently made to do a management review of the Mahaffey.

Chris Ballestra, who directs St. Petersburg's downtown enterprise facilities, said SMG has worked hard and he's certainly not resolved to end the city's relationship with the company. However, SMG's performance hasn't thrilled everybody, he said, and Ballestra welcomes Ruth Eckerd's proposal.

"There are some expectations that have not been met," Ballestra said. "And the city should clearly keep all doors open."

David Rovine, general manager of the Mahaffey and an SMG employee, said city officials had not spoken to him about Ruth Eckerd's interest.

There have been some tough patches for the theater under SMG, Rovine said, but operations have been within budget and popular acts like the singer Seal and saxophonist Kenny G are on tap.

Rovine said the Mahaffey is strong and poised for even greater success. He expressed surprise that the city would be in talks with Ruth Eckerd.

"Things have gone very well," he said. "SMG believes in this market. We look forward to a long and successful relationship with the city."

Will Van Sant can be reached at or (727) 445-4166.

Ruth Eckerd Hall president interested in managing Mahaffey Theater 02/10/09 [Last modified: Tuesday, February 10, 2009 9:57pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Pasco deputies: Wife set estranged husband's bed on fire with him in it


    NEW PORT RICHEY — James Brennan Jr. woke early in the morning Thursday to find the foot of his bed in flames.

    Eva Brennan [Photo Courtesy of the Pasco County Sheriff's Office]
  2. 20 great images from around the globe for July 21 to July 28


    Photos of the week for July 21 - July 28: A child bidding farewell to a beloved manatee, racers competing at the Brickyard 400 and the Tour de France, migrants desperately fighting for their lives in the Mediterranean and migrants tragically losing their lives in San Antonio, an athlete and an adorable little kid, a …

    Incoming White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci, right, blowing a kiss after answering questions during the press briefing in the Brady Press Briefing room of the White House in Washington, Friday, July 21, 2017. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)
  3. Rubio, Nelson look on as McCain delivers blow on health care


    Watch the dramatic moment when Sen. John McCain strides into the chamber and delivers the blow.

  4. Video: Officer told Venus Williams she caused fatal crash (w/video)


    FORT LAUDERDALE — Video shows a police officer told tennis start Venus Williams she likely caused a crash that fatally injured an elderly man but didn't cite her, saying it appeared the actions of a third driver left her in a bad spot.

    In this Jan. 28 file photo, Venus Williams answers questions at a press conference at the Australian Open in Melbourne, Australia. [AP photo]
  5. Florida 'Dreamers' worry Obama-era protection will disappear


    Andrea Seabra imagined the worst if Donald Trump won: "I thought on the first day he would say, 'DACA is done' and send immigration officers to every house."

    Mariana Sanchez Ramirez, 23, poses on the Tampa campus of the University of South Florida.