A little after 4 p.m. Tuesday, the enormous LED display that’s now the Flagler Auditorium’s new marquee flashed on with its first sign: “Thank you to everyone who helped make this marquee possible.” A small crowd of several dozen auditorium supporters, patrons and board members reacted appreciatively and applauded, even as a small black stripe in the bottom-right area of the display slightly marred the lighting: some of the LED bulbs hadn’t gotten the message just yet.
“We tested it yesterday and it worked perfectly,” Lisa McDevitt, the auditorium director, told the crowd, though her pleasure at the sight was uncontained. “It’s an awesome sign. We waited 10 years for it.”
It was part of the auditorium’s first phase in a series of improvements that included replacing the stage floor, modernizing the look of the lobby, improving external lighting and adding better signage. The enhancements are to broaden the auditorium’s visibility, and not just physically. The marquee is intended to draw more eyes to the auditorium, and to better shape perceptions about the auditorium’s mission.
“We consistently find people who come into the area who have no idea this is an auditorium with professional shows,” Richard Hamilton, a past president and current member of the auditorium board, said. “Perhaps this will help with perception.”
The auditorium seats 1,000. The majority of its patrons–58 percent–are in-county residents. In the last 23 years, auditorium numbers show, the venue has attracted on average 33,000 patrons.
The $71,000 Deltronics sign, plus $15,000 for its installation, was paid for through a $150,000 grant from county government’s Tourist Development Council. The money is drawn from revenue from the 4 percent sales surtax levied on short-term rentals, hotel and motel stays. TDC revenue can be spent on marketing local events that draw tourism, but also on major capital improvements that have a direct tie-in to tourism, such as improvements to the Flagler pier or building new sports fields at the Indian Trails Sports Complex. The auditorium’s marquee fell in that category.
McDevitt submitted the application to the TDC last April. “Enhancements will entice more potential residents and out-of-county visitors to attend performances in Flagler versus surrounding and competing venues,” McDevitt wrote in her application. The sign was part of a $250,000 project, all of it completed but for the outside lighting (a $20,000 project). Future improvements will add space to the lobby and create more meeting, restroom and office space, among other things.
The TDC approved the application in July, and the county commission subsequently approved the appropriation. The Flagler County School Board also contributed $40,000 toward the improvements, as did the auditorium board itself, which contributed some $60,000.
Mary Stetler, the auditorium board president–who was at the lighting on Tuesday–said the marquee will vastly improve visibility and make it much easier to showcase events, as auditorium staff can now sit at a computer and quickly enter whatever the sign will display, as opposed to having to send people in a crane to the marquee to change lettering the old way. The lighting system can also be incorporated in students’ skills, for those students who work at the auditorium, Stetler said.