I had the pleasure of attending the Performing Arts Managers Conference (PAMC) in San Antonio earlier this week. We discussed a wide gamut of topics within lectures, bootcamps, and receptions. I even hosted my own roundtable discussion. Here are some observations on the third day's activities regarding the topics and architecture's involvement.  
 
Town Hall 
Survey results from International Association of Venue Managers (IAVM) members were presented, and there were some interesting results on the sustainability front. Nearly half of the venues surveyed regarded sustainability as "very important", and over 80% have instituted some level of mechanical/electrical upgrades. These upgrades, while the most costly of the sustainability measures performing arts facilities are making, are showing an average payback of only three years.  
 
Questions about composting and going to zero waste to the landfill were discussed. The Peace Center's response was to send its non-recyclable waste to a gasification plant increases costs. In doing so, vendors can provide waste management services to reduce staff time required. 
 
2010 ADA 
ADA continued to be a hot topic of discussion. For example the question was raised, how do you deal with standing patrons blocking wheelchair seats? One venue's attendees mentioned that they blacked out seats in front of those positions when standing audiences are anticipated. The question what constitutes anticipated standing audiences during the event in performing arts came up - does a standing ovation count as being part of the event? 
 
It is worth noting that 25 years after the enactment of ADA, there is still a fair amount of confusion about what the requirements are and to what types of facilities they apply. The truth is that the 2010 Accessibility Standards (i.e. the standards adopted by the Department of Justice in 2010) apply to ALL public accommodations. There is also what seems to be a fairly widespread perception that existing facilities are "grandfathered" from the 2010 Standards. The confusion may arise from the "safe harbor" provisions in the 2010 Standards, which allow modifications made in compliance with the 1992 regulations to stand even though they may not comply with the 2010 Standards. There are still a number of facilities that have not made even the "readily achievable" improvements mandated by the 1992 ADAAG. In fact, there is no such thing as being "grandfathered". ALL public accommodations must comply with the Standards. The 2010 Standards do clarify a number of things that were a bit ambiguous in the old ADAAG, but that did not make it easier for facilities to comply. For example, a disproportionate expense that might make a particular alteration not subject to the requirements is defined as one costing more than 20% of the overall cost of the alterations. For theaters, the old ADAAG required wheelchair seating locations to be "dispersed". The 2010 Standards actually clarify what is considered to be "dispersed". 
 

Seating Arrangements for the Eisenhower Theater, a QEA project

 
Tours 
The group toured the Tobin Center for the Performing Arts. This new facility was inserted within the shell of a former arena. While the historic facade was preserved, the entire auditorium was demolished with a 1700-seat theater and a black box inserted within. The League of Historic American Theatres (LHAT) had toured the building pre-renovation, so it was interesting to see the results. The venue features an adjustable floor. One highlight of the visit was the demonstration of Gala's system that literally flips the seats to create a stage extension or flat floor - very impressive (but certainly not cheap). Kudos to LMN Architects for a great project.  
 
The final tour was of the Texas Scenic factory. It was great to see how all the moving parts that help make theater magic happen actually are fabricated. 
 
All in all, a great conference! 
 

The Tobin Center's Retractable Floor System in Action

An Inside Look into the Texas Scenic Factory's Manufacturing Equipment