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Largo Cultural Center working toward self-reliance

The Largo Cultural Center will depend less on taxpayers and more on self-generated revenue to survive in coming years, administrators say.

A recently released business plan projects funding patterns for the center through 2001. During its first year of operation, $218,000 in city money accounted for about 38 percent of the center's revenue. Ticket sales, facility rentals and donations accounted for the rest, about $360,000, of the $577,900 budget.

"We need to start looking at ways to better fund ourselves," said center manager Donna McBride.

Center workers are planning to raise $600,000 for an endowment by 2001. A fund-raising campaign would begin the year before, and private donations and grants are expected to garner $360,000, McBride said. The state would contribute a $240,000 matching grant, for a total of $600,000, "giving the institution a good base for the endowment," she said. How much the endowment will generate has not been determined.

It may never be enough, however.

"We don't see that we're ever going to eliminate (city subsidies)," McBride said. "It's not even a part of the city's goals."

Other factors are expected to lessen the dependence on taxpayers even before the endowment is established.

The center, which opened last year, has estimated modest increases in ticket sales in the next few years. Ticket prices will not be increased, McBride said, but more people are expected to attend the center's theater performances, shows and concerts as it becomes a staple in the community, she said.

If that is to happen, "I can't emphasize enough how much we need marketing," said City Commissioner Pat Burke.

During a recent meeting, Burke and other commissioners said they support the center's efforts and the use of city money to prevent increased ticket prices. The center's aim should continue to be providing quality entertainment at affordable prices, commissioners said.

The maximum ticket price for a cultural center event would be about $25, McBride said.

The center anticipates some of its audiences to reach 98 percent capacity by 2001. Administrators also anticipate that more organizations will want to rent space in the center as it gains popularity, McBride said.

Projections for the next four years show decreases in city contributions. In 2000, the city is expected to contribute $162,300, about 25 percent less than it gave this year.

During 2001, however, the city's contribution will increase to $288,600, to pay for new carpeting for the center and a donation to the endowment. City contributions would begin to decrease again after that, McBride said.