Mayor says local company interested in auditorium lease

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 7, 2012

Ben Hillyer/The Natchez Democrat — Dance lovers leave the City Auditorium Thursday night after the Middleton School of Dance’s Christmas program. The city may change the management of the facility soon.

NATCHEZ — A local company is looking to lease the Natchez City Auditorium in an effort to bring more entertainment events to the venue.

Mayor Butch Brown informed the Natchez Board of Aldermen last week that First Natchez Radio Group has expressed interest in leasing the city-owned building.

First Natchez Radio Group General Manager Margaret Perkins declined to comment on the radio group’s plans for the auditorium.

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But Brown said the city will require the radio group to keep annual events that are held at the auditorium, such as the Historic Natchez Tableaux.

Brown said he believed it was the group’s intention to build events around the current auditorium schedule and make the auditorium a more meaningful entertainment venue for the city.

The building has, in years past, played host to country music concerts sponsored by the radio station. Other annual events include Mardi Gras balls, cotillions, gospel concerts, ballet recitals and more.

If the radio group leases the auditorium, anyone wishing to schedule an event at the auditorium must do so through the group.

The auditorium is currently managed by New Orleans Hotel Consultants, owned by Warren Reuther.

City Clerk Donnie Holloway said the city pays New Orleans Hotel Consultants $20,000 a month to manage the auditorium, the Natchez Convention Center and the Natchez Community Center.

Holloway said he is unsure of how that cost will be reduced if First Natchez Radio Group leases the auditorium.

“That will have to be worked out in the contract,” he said.

Brown said the hotel company has expressed that it is no longer interested in managing the auditorium, and he said he believes auditorium management needs a change.

Brown also said the current management contract has too many loopholes in it.

“I don’t want this to be a slam on the current management in any way,” he said. “It is what it is, and it needs a change and needs refreshing, and we have an opportunity to do all of that.”

The goal, Brown said, is to generate revenue from the auditorium that can be used for upkeep of the building.

First Natchez Radio Group will be charged with upkeep of the interior of the building and grass cutting, and the city will maintain the exterior building and mechanical systems, Brown said.