PACKARD MUSIC HALL City's help paves way for box-office project

Short- and long-term planning efforts are being made to generate revenue at the W. D. Packard Music Hall.
WARREN -- A long-awaited project is getting the green light now that the city has agreed to chip in for capital improvements at W.D. Packard Music Hall.
Officials there have been looking at building an in-house box office since 1997 but were stalled by insufficient funds.
Christopher Stephenson, music hall manager, said a box office will improve customer service, support marketing efforts, provide ticketing for Packard and outside events, improve the hall's professional image and support long-term programming efforts.
A box office also will allow for credit card sales, seat inventory control, accurate accounting and reporting and improve productivity by preventing overbooking, officials say.
Creating a box office is among the plans to improve the hall now and in the future. Other initiatives include forming a foundation to help support the hall and applying for a liquor license.
Money: The city agreed to kick in $50,000 for music hall capital projects during a special meeting in August.
Stephenson said the money also will be used to buy equipment to support and develop concession operations and professional bar services.
"We feel these new efforts are critical to the long-term stability and success of the music hall," said John Bentz, president of Packard Band Board of Trustees.
Efforts are being made to meet the long-range vision of making the music hall the area's leading community arts and entertainment center, he said.
The city also agreed to help fund the music hall to the tune of about $85,000 for operations the rest of the year.
The city agreed to help fund it the first half of the year, saying the rest of the money hinged on whether Packard officials could come up with a financial and marketing plan.
Planning: They presented a plan to upgrade the hall and generate more revenue after working with a consultant, architects and Dr. David Allen, dean of Kent State University Trumbull Campus.
Stephenson said planning includes development of partnerships with local organizations and businesses.
Packard officials are looking at companies that can provide the ticketing service, which will have to be bid out.
Stephenson said he hopes to have a box office in place by December, in time for "The Nutcracker" show presented by Great Lakes Festival Ballet.
"We're really excited," he added. "This has been a long time coming."
The hall, which opened in 1955, is home to the Packard Band, established through the generosity of the Packard family.
It suffered staff and funding cuts in 2000 when the city scaled back because of tight finances.
Stephenson said he hopes there is enough money to bring back one of two employees laid off then.

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