Janesville21.2°

Theater is benefit to local economy

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Carla McCann
January 26, 2008
— The economic impact of UW-Whitewater’s Young Auditorium on the community is huge.

The auditorium, which offers a wide variety of professional performing arts shows, annually brings $2.1 million in sales, more than 26 full-time jobs and $964,000 in labor income to the local economy, according to a study released Friday by two university extension community economic development specialists.


Theater patrons are spending money at local gas stations, restaurants and motels.


Russ Kashian, department of economics at UW-Whitewater, and Steven Deller, department of agricultural and applied economics at UW-Madison were the study’s authors.


The local study was triggered by a national study by the Americans for the Arts, which estimated that the nation’s art industry generates $166.2 billion annually in economic activity and supports 5.7 million full-time jobs.


“The overall purpose of this (the local) study is to attempt to create a better understanding of the relationship between community, the performing arts and economics throughout Wisconsin,” according to the study.


The local auditorium is located on the southeast side of UW-Whitewater campus. It has 1,300 seats and averages 24,000 patrons at about 27 performances per year. Since opening in 1992, more than 1.4 million people have passed through the facility, according to statistics provided by Ben Strand, development director for the auditorium.


The auditorium’s mission is to serve as a major regional performing arts center providing southeastern Wisconsin residents with a wide variety of professional performing arts talent.


The auditorium’s main demographic reaches about a 90-mile radius in Rock, Jefferson and Walworth counties, which have a combined population of 338,378.


Auditorium patrons, however, are not only from south-central Wisconsin, but also from cities such as Milwaukee and Madison.


The study included a random survey sent in October to 1,500 patrons, who attended programs at the auditorium during the past two seasons. Seventy-five percent of the 295 survey respondents said they visited Whitewater “specifically to attend” arts events at the auditorium.


While attending events at the auditorium, patrons spent an average of $13.77 on food at the auditorium and about $44.70 in the area, according to the study.


“It is conceivable that, without a theater in Whitewater, patrons of the arts would travel elsewhere for this entertainment,” according to the study. “However, this investment in Whitewater reaps benefits to the community in social terms, economic terms and cultural terms.”



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