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Concert Promoter Objects to 'Free' Concerts

John Hutchins wants a level playing field.

The Niagara Falls Reporter has received an email from no less a personage than John Hutchins, owner of the Rapids Theater and the city's most active concert promoter. He sent his email not only to the Reporter, but the city council, Mayor Paul Dyster and about 300 other prominent local people and news outlets.

He is unhappy.

His unhappiness stems from the fact that after the taxpayer-funded Hard Rock Cafe concert series ended (after the council majority of Sam Fruscione, Bob Anderson and Glenn Choolokian refused to give Dyster some $200,000 this year to put on the "free" concerts), USA Niagara will, apparently, be using state tax dollars to pay for more so-called "free" concerts, this time run by Global Spectrum, an international management company that manages public assembly venues in the United States, Canada, the Middle East and Southeast Asia.

One of the venues Global Spectrum gets paid to manage is Old Falls Street.

The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, 10,000 Maniacs and others are among the acts that will perform on Old Falls Street this summer.

These are being billed as "free" concerts. They are not free of course. People in New York state will actually have to go to work and the New York state government will directly tax them in order to give money to USA Niagara, which in turn will go to pay Global Spectrum, which in turn pays for the acts etc. (after taking a reasonable profit) so people can go to "free" concerts.

Funny, too, the people of Niagara Falls would have footed the bill for these new 'free" concerts on Old Falls Street, but, once again, the council majority - that darn council majority of Anderson, Fruscione and Choolokian - got in the way.

That council majority cut the entire $3 million in annual funding from the city to USA Niagara - including half a million dollars for USA Niagara and Global Spectrum to run Old Falls Street - out of the city's budget.

You can well imagine half a million to manage a two block street that has a few sidewalk vendors and a few free summer concerts is quite a good gig for those who manage it.

Mayor Dyster, and his echo chamber: council members Kristen Grandinetti and Charles Walker, fought hard to keep USA Niagara rolling in this money. They even proposed raising taxes on every property in the city by more than 8 percent just to keep USA Niagara funded by city dollars.

But the council majority stepped in and put a stop to this wasteful extravagance of a broke city funding a well-financed state development agency and in doing so, stopped the 8 percent tax increase.

So now, instead of city taxpayers paying higher property taxes and getting "free" concerts, state taxpayers will get to pay for them.

In any event, Hutchins being in the concert business, and having to use his own hard-earned money to do it, is not particularly pleased that his tax money is being spent on competition that he cannot possibly compete with: free concerts.

Hutchins, not being the government, has to pay for his own acts and therefore has to charge admission for his concerts.

So Hutchins, while he wrongly blames the city council, whose majority actually cut the funding for both the "free" Old Falls Street concerts and "free" Hard Rock concerts, in his widely circulated letter, rightly says a mouthful, and his opinion deserves to be heard.

Hutchins writes:

Thank you Mayor Dyster and City Council members. You have done it to me again. The Rapids Theatre is the only legitimate concert promoter in the City of Niagara Falls, yet never have you given us the opportunity to promote or run the "free" shows that are put on for the benefit of the taxpayers, of which I am one of the largest in the city.

It's a travesty that first you gave my tax dollars to the Hard Rock Cafe for years when they are a national company worth billions of dollars, owned by the Seminole Indians in Florida, and pay no taxes in our city.

Next the mayor brings in Live Nation (Entertainment Co.) courting them to build an amphitheater with the same basic capacity as the Rapids, oblivious to the fact that we are located on Main Street.

Art Park (which has "free" or subsidized summer concerts) is just up the road and funded by my tax dollars and the Hard Rock is already receiving aid they do not need or deserve.

Now the city is throwing it's support behind another large corporation, Global Spectrum, which should not be getting my tax dollars to go into further competition with me by putting on free shows. You may notice that (the Rapids Theater has) only one concert all summer because people will not buy tickets to shows when they can go to free shows every night of the week in Western N.Y.

Why on earth would city officials put on free events without even talking to the only professional concert promoter in the area about putting in a bid on the business?

Everyone, and I mean everyone I know in the business world, told me not to invest in Niagara Falls. I am truly sorry that in the four years the Rapids Theatre has been in business, not once has the city offered us the opportunity to run a free concert series supported by city funds yet on numerous occasions have gone to my well funded, non taxpaying national competitors and helped them try and put me out of business.

On top of all that, I have received nothing but lip service regarding the deplorable condition of the neighborhood (Main Street, not far from the 'transformational' Municipal Complex) in which the Rapids tries to exist. The amount of business we lose every year in weddings and banquets because we are surrounded by 'downtown Beirut' is inestimable. Thanks for everything.

I don't expect any one of our city officials to respond to this email, but I hope that at least one of you will prove me wrong and tell me what can be done to correct this injustice. I will be happy to include your responses along with my submission to the newspapers as a letter to the editor.



Niagara Falls Reporter - Publisher Frank Parlato Jr. www.niagarafallsreporter.com

Jul 16, 2013