In an unexpected move, the La Jolla Concerts by the Sea board of directors recently announced the 2016 season would be its last, unless a “substantial, long-term funding source” comes forward to underwrite the free summer concerts in Scripps Park.
According to press material, “The board of directors has decided to cease operations after the 2016 season and will not move forward with plans for 2017 or beyond.”
Of the decision, board president Shirleymae Davis said, “It made me sick to heart and I cried my eyes out over it, but that doesn’t bring in the money, unfortunately. Not one of the 10-member board wants to do this, but we all recognize that we can’t run these (eight) concerts on our own, the way we have been, anymore.”
Citing increases in city permit costs and decreases in sponsorships and donations, Davis said unless a donor (or donors) provides a $10,000 commitment per year for the next 5 to 10 years, the concerts will conclude after a 33-year run. Each concert costs between $4,000-$5,000 to produce, including the $2,500 sponsorship required to get a band on stage.
“We’ve been trying to do this on our own, but we are at the point where we can’t continue,” Davis said. “The City of San Diego keeps raising fees and requiring more permits. For the first 10 years, the city was very supportive and provided showmobiles before we had staging. They provided and paid for the three city workers, whom we now have to pay. That kind of support was what we needed to get the concerts off the ground.”
Nineteen-year emcee Ron Jones added he is “deeply saddened” by the cancellation. “I don’t want to think this is actually it. But the city is making it difficult for us to continue. Still, we’re hopeful that someone in the community sees the value in these sunny Sunday events and can step up and help us, and take us to that next level,” he said. “There are a lot of smart leaders in La Jolla, and we hope one of them can come up with something. We are wide open to suggestions and ideas.”
Jones said when he made the announcement at a recent concert that 2016 would be the last year, “The collective groan of the crowd was a sound I’ve never heard before; it was not good.”
Cheerleading for the event, he said he considers the concert series — which has brought artists like Sue Palmer and Her Motel Swing Orchestra, and Theo and the Zydeco Patrol — one of the best things about La Jolla in the summer. “There are those who schedule their vacations around our programs. It’s a great tradition for families. I’ve had people come up to me as adults and tell me their parents brought them here when they were kids,” he said.
“The city has increased what we have to pay for trash, permits, workers, dumpsters and portable restrooms,” Jones said, adding concert organizers also needed more portable restrooms after a city employee observed a line forming in front of them at one concert. “They insisted we increase the number of portable toilets just because there was a line, so we had to pay for that.”
The board also had to contract out food sales, rather than allow area service groups such as the Kiwanis Club to donate hot dogs, because they did not have a sink with hot running water to wash out cooking pots.
Coupled with increased costs, Jones said, contributions are down. This year, a major sponsor backed out and did not provide the funding needed for one of the shows. Scrambling, the board pulled funding from other shows and the coffers to produce the concert. Further, assistance offers in terms of volunteering or financial contributions, “have not been forthcoming.”
Davis added, “we’ve been beating our heads against the wall for several years and faced continual problems but managed to squeak by. We just can’t do it anymore without a long-term financial source.”
In researching how other concert series have managed to survive, Davis said in other areas, a community organization supports the shows on an annual basis. “We don’t have that,” she said.
The board of directors plans to hold onto the financial assets they have left at the end of this season for two years with the hope that a “solid plan” comes to fruition and they have some funds available. At the end of two years, if something or someone doesn’t come forward to underwrite the concerts, the 501(c)3 non-profit board will be dissolved.
“We’ve tried everything we can think of,” Davis said, “but now we hope someone somewhere comes forward to help. If we hear from them, that’s great. If not, we’re done.”
CARE TO HELP? Reach Shirleymae Davis at (858) 459-4053 or firstname.lastname@example.org or Ron Jones at (858) 456-0907.