Program Report: DPAC New Season – Bob Klaus

BobKlausWebCarver Weaver gave General Manager Bob Klaus a quick introduction so he could get down to business with his introduction of the 2013-2014 Durham Performing Arts Center season. The details of the season are much better shared on the DPAC website at http://www.dpacnc.com than recounted.

Bob, it turns out, is a bit of a showman himself and grabbed the portable mic to conduct a quiz of the audience’s trivia knowledge of DPAC. Although he wasn’t met with the exuberance of Bob Barker or Drew Carey on the Price is Right, it was pretty clear our full house was pretty engaged.

Among the things we learned was that our cost to build a first class performance center was $48 million contrasted to Orlando’s pending investment of $300 million. There are officially 2712 seats in the auditorium, slightly less than the plans and slightly more than for Broadway shows when the orchestra occupies some of the orchestra. The first headliner was B.B. King. The highest grossing musician was Neil Young ($350K). Jerry Seinfeld was the best drawing comedian. Wicked sold 168,363 tickets. Last year the economic impact to Durham was a positive $43 million and the facility finished with a Pollstar ranking of #5 in competition with many larger facilities in larger communities.

In responding to questions, Bob predicted that this season’s big blockbuster would be the Book of Mormon that was written by those irreverent guys that created SouthPark on television.

In chatting with Secretary Elect and Communications Committee member Mark Lazenby after the program, he posed a question that didn’t get asked because of the time constraint. Mark, who is the true public relations pro among us, observed that DPAC is “punching above its weight” and wondered why.

I think there is a clue in Bob’s response to another questions about the contrast between DPAC and the big venue in the Capital City. What’s it called now? It was the Progress Energy Center, but Progress Energy is no more.  As inelegant as you might think DPAC sounds when you pronounce it as a word, it is far better in my humble opinion than some corporate sponsorship name.  Anyway, Bob’s response talked about the focus on booking professional touring acts, that is, concerts, shows, comedians, etc., and not, with the exception of the American Dance Festival, local performance groups like the NC Symphony. Than and the role of Neiderlander and Bob’s leadership, I think explains a lot.

Poor Shelly Green, leader of our Convention and Visitors Bureau who should know everything, missed the first of Bob’s trivia questions and deprived her table of the tickets Bob was passing out for correct answers. It was about who first conceived the idea for a large performing arts center in Downtown Durham.  The choices were DDI President and Rotarian Bill Kalkhof, former Mayor Nick Tennyson or former city economic development chief and Rotarian Alan DeLisle. The correct answer according to Bob was Bill Kalkhof but he sort of admitted that was based on the earliest documentation that he could find and all three were involved very early.

Mark and I agreed that maybe the program committee should convene a panel or maybe prevail upon Bill and Bob to elaborate more at another time on why and how DPAC came about. Maybe include Shelly and her old boss and mentor Reyn Bowman.  It’s a truly remarkable economic development story. If you are reading this on our website, leave a comment with your thoughts.

Submitted by Jay Zenner

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