Unifying A City Through Baseball and Broadway
20 years ago, I left St. Louis for the bright lights of the Great White Way. I have established a reputable career leading the strategic growth of Broadway, overseeing historic Tony Award winning productions. I attended my first Broadway opening at age 10 at the Fabulous Fox Theatre. In the two decades I’ve been living in NYC and fortunate to serve as a Broadway executive, opening nights still give me goose bumps.
A life-long baseball fan, my St. Louis heart still bleeds Cardinal red, as it does for all things about my beloved hometown. Opening day at Busch always give me goosebumps.
I follow St. Louis on a daily basis and visit family and the community often. First hand, I’ve seen the divineness, the loss, the lack of leadership, and the unrest St. Louis has endured over the past few years.
Alternatively, I’ve also seen the sunrise, the resiliency, and the humanity many of the city and county residents elicit everyday. I bear witness to the progressive non-resident city spending pumped into the region thanks to organizations like the St. Louis Sports Commission and our esteemed local universities. Warm weather months will flourish thanks to the NCAA Gymnastics Championships in April and PGA Championship in August. Growth is viable with STL businesses, even if incrementally. Amazon HQ may not be coming, but something else is:
Hamilton. And Hope.
This week, St. Louis basks in the spring awakening of two vibrant and culture-galvanizing events that will most certainly boost civic pride. And hopefully do something else much greater and far lasting: the home-openings of Hamilton and the St. Louis Cardinals.
As many readers know, Hamilton: The American Musical is the most talked about Broadway juggernaut, and a key figure in expanding arts education in schools across the country thanks to their #EduHam program. Hamilton begins a three-week run at the Fox Theatre commencing Tuesday. Opening Day for the Cardinals, two days later, is essentially a local holiday. This week St. Louis gets the pageantry of both. We shouldn’t mistake the dazzle of these spectacles as perishable events. Each, in their own way, aim to do something far grander for residents.
Approximately 96,000 patrons are expected to attend Hamilton in St. Louis. Subscription sales set new records and single tickets sold out immediately. The Fox has a long history of welcoming guests to Grand St. According to The Broadway League — the trade organization for touring shows — the Fox has welcomed on average over 315,000 patrons to their Broadway series over the last 6 full seasons (September to May.) Not to mention the hundreds of other concerts and events this historic venue presents each year. St. Louis attendance at touring Broadway shows at Fox (plus the Peabody Opera House) best figures in at least 4 markets of greater DMA size: Atlanta, Dallas, Seattle, Minneapolis.
Let’s also celebrate another local arts milestone this spring — the 100th Anniversary of The Muny. Their celebratory gala occurs next month and should also be a hot ticket. The Muny has established progressive annual attendance trends over the last few years and the same could be said about the vibrant and decorated work by SLSO, the Black Repertory Theatre, Repertory Theatre of St. Louis, Opera Theatre of St. Louis, New Line Theatre, Stages, Peabody Opera House, just to name a few.
In fact, the Americans for the Arts, a leading nonprofit organization for advancing the arts in America, released their 2017 Arts & Economic Prosperity 5 report, which tracked the national economic activity generated across 341 different regions — including the Greater St. Louis region for the calendar year 2015.
According to the report, St. Louis's non-profit arts industry:
Generates $590 million in economic impact for the region.
Of the 65 multi-county regions like St. Louis studied, St. Louis’s nonprofit arts industry ranks #11 in total economic impact generated.
Supports 19,129 full-time equivalent jobs.
Draws more than 11.7 million people yearly (that’s more than twice the attendance at all STL professional sporting events combined at 4.7 million.)
Add the 315,000+ Fox Broadway patrons — representing commercial revenue — and all of these aforementioned numbers expand profoundly.
St. Louis is not only a baseball town; it’s an arts town.
If the arts are wholeheartedly important to fabric of this region, live theatre can be the fuel that connects our communities.
When we enter Busch Stadium, our gender, race, creed, or sexual orientation is blinded by one glaring color: red. We scream, we shout, we high five over a common thread: a team color. A bond that exists far beyond STL zip codes whenever we see fellow St. Louisans in other cities [cue: the high school question.] To what end, though, do we unify other aspects of our lives beyond just being Cardinals fans?
Similar to their sports counterparts, the performing arts allow people of differing backgrounds to come together and share a life-changing experience. Shared experiences in arts venues create more integrated audiences. The exploration of the arts with diverse, relevant, and vital programming build more connected neighborhoods and begin knocking down discord and animosity to start cementing inclusiveness and diversity. The arts encourage collaboration, ideas, and thoughtful conversations. They require us to listen to one another. The path towards amalgamation in St. Louis starts with these ideals, ones equally suited for boardrooms, legislative sessions, and community development. St. Louis is a smart city, and a region with immense pride. At the end of the day, St. Louis does want to break down barriers, but it starts at home and it starts in classrooms.
This is one milestone week, month, & year for St. Louis. Hope spring eternal; everything is coming up roses. Opening days flood us in the footlights of optimism and hope. St. Louis should embrace it, celebrate it, and share it. Together. It shouldn’t stop once the pageantry ends, the Clydesdales leave, and the curtain drops.