Paid seats at Concerts in the Park will be used to fundraise for Centennial Celebration

The city will sell reserved seats and parking spaces at Polliwog Park for the first time ever during its 34th annual Concerts in the Park series this summer to help raise money for the city’s Centennial Celebration next year.

The City Council at its Tuesday meeting also discussed the possibility of selling reserved areas and seating at the Holiday Fireworks Festival and Manhattan Beach Open (MBO) as options to privately raise money to cover the Centennial’s $500,000 budget and make it “priceless” for residents.

Roughly 24 spaces accommodating four to six attendees will be available for $100 apiece near Polliwog’s stage area during the concert series this summer only. Reserved parking spaces will be available for $50. Though the sale of reservations at Polliwog was originally estimated to bring in $84,000, it will likely bring in less since council reduced the number of spaces available for reservation from 52, which was originally proposed.

Seating in other areas of the park will remain free and any seats not sold in the reserved areas will revert to unpaid seating.

Many residents expressed concern that paid seating would tear at the fabric of one of the city’s most treasured traditions. Louis Pastor of the Hyperion Outfall Serenaders, a band that plays at the series every year, warned the council that many residents who have attended for years may be unhappily surprised to find the spots they sit in every year replaced by people willing to pay for them.

Other residents at Tuesday’s meeting called the plan exclusive and elitist.

“You want to do something priceless?” said resident Jackie May. “Maybe for some it is priceless, but the majority can’t afford it. This town already has a reputation for being snobbish.”

“This is Manhattan Beach?” said resident Richard Strom. “What is Manhattan Beach becoming? If that’s what it’s becoming, it’s time to move to El Segundo or Hermosa Beach.”

Councilmember Wayne Powell expressed concern that attendees who pay for seats might become upset if other attendees sit for free in reserved seating areas that don’t sell.

“This is exclusive,” Powell said. “This is elitism. This is not what Manhattan Beach is about. The best things in life are free and I want to keep it that way.”

The city estimates that selling similar reservations at the Fireworks Festival and MBO could bring in $8,000 and $3,000 respectively, however such plans are tentative.

The committee will also start a street pole banner program, in which sponsors can purchase advertising space on banners to be hung around the city in preparation of the Centennial Celebration. The banners will be provided by the committee at no cost to the city and are expected to bring in $15,000.

Mayor Richard Montgomery, who — along with Mayor Pro Tem Nick Tell — chairs the Centennial Committee planning the event, said that fundraising efforts are essential in order to avoid reaching into city coffers to foot the bill for the 2012 Centennial, which will include several events throughout next year, some free to residents and others at a cost.

“The idea is we’re trying to have [the Centennial Celebration] paid for without asking for your money,” said Mayor Richard Montgomery.

“This is one way to make it happen and we need your help to get there,” he added.

Committee member Joe Franklin said that with a mandate that no city money is to be spent on the Centennial Celebration, the committee had to develop creative ways to fund it.

“This is truly a once in a lifetime experience and this is going to make it special and give us the ability to do the event.” Franklin said. “It’s a sacrifice people are going to have to make. We’re trying to strike a balance and that’s not always easy to do.”

The committee will also begin an Outreach and Awareness Campaign to raise awareness about the Centennial and is also soliciting corporate sponsors and individual donors. Any additional monies raised will be donated to charitable organizations in the city.

“We’re trying to be incredibly inclusive of everyone in the city – families, children, east side, west side,” said committee member Manny Walker. “We’re working hard to have it paid for without dipping into anyone’s pocket here.”

For more information, visit ER

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