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John Ruch Posted by on December 6, 2017.

City Springs event bookings, theater space take shape

City Springs’ debut slate of arts events is still secret, but shaping up quickly for a big announcement expected in early January. And the building housing Sandy Springs’ new civic center is coming together quickly, too, with theater seats and outdoor fountains among the recent additions.

The Sandy Springs Foundation, the nonprofit in charge of fundraising and community input for City Springs’ arts programs, got an update on booking and took a facility tour on Dec. 6. That was a day after the theater was named for the foundation’s chair, Ken Byers, and his wife Tricia to acknowledge their $2.5 million donation.

The Byers Theatre in City Springs as it appears from the stage, whose floor is still under construction. (John Ruch)

Michael Enoch, general manager of City Springs’ event spaces, collectively called the Performing Arts Center, said the January announcement will be about several major events booked for later in 2018. He said managers are starting work on contracts for a two-week schedule of grand opening events, which officials previously said likely would be in August or September 2018 and involve a wide variety of performance types.

And contract work is nearing completion, Enoch said, on a June 9, 2018 event in the new City Green park. City Councilmember Gabriel Sterling previously said that event will be the annual “Food That Rocks” restaurant event, but city spokesperson Sharon Kraun would not confirm that. Mentioned in passing at the Dec. 6 Foundation meeting, held at Heritage Sandy Springs, was booking of a major Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta fundraiser for October 2018, though officials said the contract is not final.

The booking is being done by Spectra by Comcast Spectacor, a private company that employs Enoch and is contracted by the city, from temporary offices in 140 Hilderbrand Drive, a house near City Springs that the city recently purchased for a road project and land-banking. Management will move into City Springs offices once it opens. Renovating the house cost $4,200 and the city is spending about $250 a month on operating expenses, Kraun said.

Public input and feedback

A major role of the foundation is to get public input on the types of events that should be booked at City Springs and to get feedback afterward.

Another view inside the Byers Theatre, showing its box seating. (John Ruch)

“To capsulate it in three words … our purpose is to entertain, educate and engage,” said Jan Collins, head of the foundation’s programming committee.

More colorfully, she said part of the job is to “get [the public] fired up and whipped into a frenzy” about events. And afterward, she said, they hope to hear feedback of the sort her son-in-law provides when he likes her cooking: “I’d eat it again.”

Collins provided a draft questionnaire that the public will be asked to use to weigh in on programming priorities. The broad categories are “performing arts,” “concerts,” “commercial entertainment,” “lectures” and “festivals,” plus write-in options. Each category includes a wide variety of choices, with “concerts” including everything from classical to bluegrass to hip-hop. “Commercial entertainment” includes comedy, DJs/electronic dance music, e-sports video game competitions, variety shows and magicians.

Another important public role is arts education, in general and tied to specific major events. In February, the foundation’s education committee will begin a series of focus group style meetings about such programs, first with educators at area schools, then with students, and finally with parents and the general public.

Donations

A “full-fledged fundraising campaign” for the Performing Arts Center will begin in January, said Reed Haggard, head of the foundation’s development committee. Under the slogan “Art Springs Forth,” it aims to raise an initial $7.5 million to supplement and subsidize PAC programs.

One of the water features in the City Green park area is nearing completion, while the Aston City Springs housing rises in the background. (John Ruch)

“Our goal is to fill that venue with art, fill that venue with plays, fill that venue with performances, fill that venue with speaking engagements, fill that venue with people,” Haggard said.

The Byers’ $2.5 million was a big start. The first donation came from Mayor Rusty Paul, who gave $30,000, according to Kraun.

The foundation is still working on some donation policy details, such as how to handle donations of stocks and “pass-through” donations to other organizations, such as the $500,000 of Byers’ own donation earmarked for a new City Springs Theatre Company. The foundation also wants a policy on a maximum percentage of contributions to spend on administrative overhead to reassure donors; board members said 10 percent is a good industry standard.

For now, any corporations, foundations or individuals interested in donating to City Springs’ arts program can contact Haggard at reedmarketing@bellsouth.net.

Future information about donations will be posted on a new “Foundation” section of the City Springs website at citysprings.com.

The City Springs complex — located between Johnson Ferry Road and Mount Vernon Highway at Roswell Road — also includes a new City Hall, retail space and housing. It is set to open in phases next year, with the housing in January; the park in the spring or summer; City Hall in the summer; and the Byers Theatre in September.

Photos by John Ruch

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