23 May 2011

Casino Reinvestment Development Authority dedicates $200,000 for free Atlantic City concerts this summer

The Casino Reinvestment Development Authority dedicated $200,000 Tuesday toward an effort to hold free concerts at publicly owned or operated music venues throughout the city this summer.

The decision is part of the authority's effort to create a new atmosphere of entertainment along the Boardwalk at venues such as Kennedy Plaza and Brighton Park and offer residents an opportunity to enjoy free music.

The CRDA money will be used to cover 30 percent of each concert's cost, while the organizers will shoulder the remaining expenses. The amount the CRDA would contribute to a show must exceed $25,000, which would mean the authority would not be involved in any event that didn't cost at least $83,000 to produce.

The authority's interim executive director, Susan Ney Thompson, estimated the commitment would generate about $600,000 worth of free performances. An event's production, she said, must also be done by a professional organizer.

"It's a good opportunity for entities that want to come into Atlantic City and be part of the landscape," she said.

The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey is already in discussions to participate in the program. The college operates Carnegie Library and will take over management at Mississippi Avenue's Dante Hall Theater of the Arts, two potential venues for the free performances.

"We've already been talking about doing smaller scale stuff," said Alex Marino, director of operations at Carnegie Library. "We have the ability, with everything we've done at the performing arts center, to replicate that in Atlantic City."

Stockton officials have been in discussions for more than two years about controlling operations at Dante Hall, built 83 years ago and opened as a theater in 2002, but forced to close in 2009 because of financial difficulties. Marino said CRDA's commitment will help jumpstart activity at the theater, which last hosted an event on Oct. 18, 2009.

The board's vote Tuesday also comes as the city announced its plans to bring back the free summer concert series it hosted last year at Gardner's Basin.

The five-show series, co-sponsored by the city and the Atlantic City Free Public Library, kicks off 1 p.m. Saturday, June 4. Those concerts are also free and open to the public. Business Administrator Michael Scott did not know if the city would be able to use any of the CRDA funds for its concert series, but praised the authority's actions, regardless.

"With these tough economic times, a lot of people don't have the where-with-all to attend these types of concerts," Scott said. "So it's great to give people an opportunity to enjoy themselves without the stress of paying for it."

Scott also said an increase in musical performances on the Boardwalk will enhance the experience for visitors.