From the Budget Review Committee meeting to discuss the Performing Arts Center
Peter Ramsey is speaking
I am the President and CEO of the historic Palace Theatre in downtown Manchester, New Hampshire, on Hanover Street. I grew up in New Hampshire in New London and have been running performing arts facilities for 30 years. I lived in Nashua 35 years ago and loved it. I had a job at the old 88 down in the south end. I met my wife, she dragged me to Manchester, and I’ve been married ever since and living with her.
What a wonderful project and concept you have embarked upon. You should be proud of yourself. You are giving the city’s citizens hope in themselves, pride in their city, faith in their desire to live in Nashua. It takes a community to run a city. This process that you’re embarked upon will bring out both the positive people and the pessimists, the hopeful and the nay-sayers. Remember, you’re courage and foresight could change the city forever.
Remember, the Palace Theatre is 103 years old. It has been there for 100 years. Here is the truth about Manchester and the historic Palace Theatre, and how we have impacted our city and the region. We are a not-for-profit historic theatre. There is no owner of the theatre. There is a volunteer board of directors. We are governed under State New Hampshire law by a board of directors of 22 trustees to protect it. They hired me 18 years ago when the Palace Theatre was closed and it was dark. At the time I was hired, the theatre had a debt of $240,000 to 45 different businesses downtown Manchester: to a printer, to four banks, etc., etc.
We all worked hard and before you know it, it was booked up and operating again. We are now incredibly successful.
Here’s some facts about the Palace. Our yearly budget is about $4 million. Now it is over $4 million in fact. We earn ticket sales of over $3 million a year. We are as busy as you can imagine. About 330 days a year, we are running events on the stage, over 300 different shows. We had about 150,000 patrons last year. Let me repeat that: 150,000 people came downtown Manchester to see a show. We have 260 volunteer ushers. We have 15 full time employees. At any given time, we average about 20 part-time. This week we have 27 part time employees beyond the 15 full time. Summer theatre, we dedicate to children. Last summer we had over 27,000 kids come downtown. Southern New Hampshire University, Professor Doug Blais, has stated twice that we bring almost $8,000,000 – $10,000,000 in economic activity to downtown Manchester. We have about 300 children from all over New Hampshire, including Nashua, come up to the Palace every week and take lessons, makeup lessons, etc., etc., etc. We have 17 alumni working on Broadway this week – 17 alumni that have been at the Palace. We hired over 100 professional musicians last year all over New England and over 150 professional actors. We have 140 volunteer members of a Board of Advisers. We have 1500 people who are members, who pay us to be a member. That creates loyalty in the theatre. We have partnerships with 175 different businesses as you can see from the playbill. We have 25 different restaurants that we are partners with – 25. Think about the three blocks within five minutes of walking to the Palace on Hanover Street. Within five minutes of the Palace there are 22 different restaurants, 200 apartments and four buildings with rents from $700/month to $1500/month. It is hard to find an apartment in downtown near the Palace. Last year, $11 million was spent on Hanover Street. Bill Binney from the seacoast area invested almost $8 million. We have three law firms hiring over 170 attorneys within that distance. It is a tremendous asset to downtown and our overall community.
The total effects of your efforts will be many. Some quiet, some not so quiet. For example, economics. No question, I am telling you there will be economics. In my 18 years on Hanover Street, it has changed about three times, every time getting better. Educational. Artistic. You have an artistic community of people who care about Nashua. Help them be more successful. Those people care about your city. They are great citizens. It will be enchanting. There will be nights you won’t believe it. It will be enriching for your citizens, for your kids. Enriching. The heart changes when you sit there with your fellow citizens and cheer for a show at the end. It will be charitable. Last year the Palace Theatre ran 13 fundraising events for no cost for local non- profits. Thirteen. We do it because it is the right thing to do. Your new theatre will be a focal point for downtown. It’s a great location. I applaud you. It will support the fellow artists living in the city, both artistic, sound technicians, etc., etc., etc. I predict you will have 75,000 patrons in your first year. You will bring patrons from over an hour away. We do every night. Sunday afternoon, we had a nice crowd. I said hello to somebody, and that person said it’s so proud to be here. We’re from South Boston; we come up all the time. Part of the reason for that is because it’s much cheaper than going to a theatre in Boston. We do that on purpose.
It will become a major success story of your next decade. It will help drive business downtown. It will give you all pride in what you are doing. Communities are built by all of us working together and being positive, dreaming big thoughts and caring about your fellow citizens. You can do that in Nashua. You’ve already done it. Pass this legislation, work together, go down in Nashua history together. Togheter you can change your city, create a legacy for Nashua that you all will be remembered for. Your names will be on the wall. Remember this day, January 22, 2018. It will go down in Nashua history as a day that you helped change this city forever. What you are doing is in a wonderful positive way changing the future of your city forever. Thank you very much. I am happy to answer any questions or you can call me at the theatre or come up and see me.