CUMBERLAND — Business is booming in Cumberland, and next summer is expected to be even more lucrative for the Cobb Galleria Centre and Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre in attracting events to the county.
The Cobb-Marietta Coliseum and Exhibit Hall Authority, which owns and operates both centers as well as the ArtsBridge Foundation and Galleria Specialty Shops, is reporting strong financials and a continuously full calendar of concerts, awards shows, presentations and conferences.
Authority members met Wednesday, when secretary Johnny Gresham casually asked, “Is this our best year yet?” as finance director Rob Turner presented the authority’s latest financial report.
Turner couldn’t answer, with several months to go before the year’s end, but confirmed things are pretty peachy in respect of the authority’s assets.
The Cobb Galleria Centre had “intergovernmental revenue” of $18.8 million for the 11 months to August. This is money from the tax collected in Cobb for motel, hotel and other commercial accommodation charges.
It represented a $2 million increase on the budget, Turner said, adding that the venue’s operating revenues were also up on expectations by $625,000, totaling $8.7 million.
Although the Galleria Specialty Shops had an overall operating loss of $405,000, including depreciation, this was almost $100,000 better than budgeted.
And the shortfall was more than offset by the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre, which enjoyed an $810,000 increase in operating revenues compared to what was budgeted, bringing in a total of $6.7 million.
The venue’s operating profit of $601,000 through August was almost $1 million more than expected, Turner said.
“It’s been a very good summer,” Turner said, to which Gresham added “one of the best summers we’ve had.”
Vickie Hubbard, managing director for the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre, told authority members staff are aggressively booking events for the future and have made new connections with an increased number of promoters.
“In addition to what’s coming up on our website, we also have 16 more shows that will be rolled out in the next month,” she said. “We hope to continue that trend and see even greater financials in the future.”
The venue is being used all next week for the 2019 BET Hip Hop Awards, with the Oct. 5 red carpet and awards ceremony expected to bring the who’s who of hip hop from around the country.
Other events coming up at the center in the next month include an evening with astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson and several comedy shows and music concerts.
“We have quite a busy week coming up and that will just continue all through until next spring,” Hubbard said Wednesday. “Summer is a slow time so we’ve been trying to get more events here in summer and at this point they’re looking more favorable.”
The ArtsBridge Foundation, the education arm of the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre, is also excelling in its mission to provide arts education programs for K-12 students, executive director Jennifer Dobbs told authority members.
She said 75 schools from across the state are participating in this year’s Georgia High School Musical Theatre Awards — Shuler Hensley Awards, which celebrates excellence in high school musical theater.
The Emmy-winning show reached capacity this year within minutes of the foundation inviting schools to sign up, Dobbs said.
“What’s exciting is we have a lot of new schools that haven’t participated before,” she said, adding that there is a waiting list for schools that didn’t make the 75 first-in, first-served spots.
The lack of similar programs throughout the Southeast means some schools from out of state are making the effort to attend, including one from North Carolina that made the three-hour journey to Cobb last year.
“They don’t have anything like this,” Dobbs said. “That’s part of our transportation subsidy, too; we don’t want to turn anyone away.”
Authority member and Cobb Board of Commissioners Chairman Mike Boyce said some schools shape their entire programs around the annual awards.
“When you see what they do, it’s truly mind-boggling,” Boyce said. “It’s inspiring to see what the kids do and also all the support they have behind them from parents and teachers who make countless sacrifices to get the kids to this thing. It’s huge.”
Dobbs said the awards competition is considered among the top of its kind in the country and the foundation often gets inquiries from outside Georgia about how to develop and operate something similar.
“This is something we can be proud of,” she said.