What's Hot
What's Going On


Search thousands of events in our database.


Search hundreds of restaurants in our database.


Search hundreds of clubs in our database.


OW on Twitter
OW on Facebook
Print Email


Groundbreak Day

Orlando breaks ground on its performing arts center. Now what?

Photo: Rob Bartlett, License: N/A

Rob Bartlett

But the center, which was also to house the area arts groups, proved too much of a drain on the local philanthropic economy. 
Intended resident company, the Florida Philharmonic Orchestra, declared bankruptcy 
in 2003. In 2009, the Concert Association of Florida also folded. Traveling orchestras from Cleveland and Moscow were brought in as replacements.

Meanwhile, amid very public controversy about the lack of parking and other infrastructural concerns, the center required a $4.1 million bailout in its first year of operation, on top of the $3.75 million it was already guaranteed annually from the county. The center rounded out its first 18 months with a $2.5 million deficit. The entire management team was fired.

A quick reboot came in the form of a $30 million donation from philanthropist Adrienne Arsht (Carnival took its $10 million back) and a streamlining of operations. Miami-Dade County now subsidizes the center, which also pulls funding from other local arts organizations, to the tune of $7 million annually. And yet it continues, experiencing something of a renaissance according to recent reports.

"Even though the Arsht has not cut back, resident companies such as the Miami City Ballet and the Florida Grand Opera have made their own budget cuts in recent years," the Herald reported last year, "and other arts groups that have also cut back during the recession have complained about 
prohibitively high usage rates."


The proverbial mansionon the hill in the eyes of DPAC, the Kravis Center opened in 1992 to much fanfare, with performances by Ella Fitzgerald, the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Isaac Stern and the Florida Philharmonic. Initial construction costs were fairly modest; the theater – which includes a 2,200-seat concert hall, a 300-seat black-box theater and an outdoor amphitheater – came in at around $60 million, plus a $30 million renovation that followed in 2003.

But even the best-laid plans of starry-eyed arts advocates couldn't protect the Kravis center from its share of controversy. 
In 2001, the National Labor Relations Board concluded that the Kravis Center had committed numerous infractions against its unionized stagehands, setting off a contentious battle that lasted for a decade – one that could end up costing the center $3.6 million in damages. Informal picketing continues, most recently in May with an attempt by stagehands to force Bill Maher to cancel a scheduled performance. He didn't.

Kravis' $19 million annual operating budget hasn't been immune to the downward trend in the economy. The most recent tax documents available show a significant drop in grants and donations from $7.1 million in 2007 to $3.9 million in 2008. As for its support of local arts, Ballet Florida, the center's resident ballet company since 1992, closed in 2009 amid massive debt; it was the last company Juan Escalante ran before heading up – then leaving – Orlando Ballet. And just over a year after Florida Stage, a theater company known for developing "new and emerging" works, relocated to the Kravis, it saw its subscription base dip from 7,000 to less than 2,000, leaving the company $1.5 million in the hole. The company shut its doors this month. Local arts supporters point to Kravis as the culprit, suggesting that the resident Palm Beach Opera may be next to go.


We welcome user discussion on our site, under the following guidelines:

To comment you must first create a profile and sign-in with a verified DISQUS account or social network ID. Sign up here.

Comments in violation of the rules will be denied, and repeat violators will be banned. Please help police the community by flagging offensive comments for our moderators to review. By posting a comment, you agree to our full terms and conditions. Click here to read terms and conditions.
comments powered by Disqus