BY O.J. EARLY
The county's largest entertainment venue is turning in a solid performance for the local economy.
Several local restaurants, plus a few hotels and motels, report an increase in customers and guests when the Niswonger Performing Arts Center (NPAC) hosts a show.
NPAC has hosted a variety of big-name performers this year, including the internationally-known Swingle Singers of London and prominent Christian singer Amy Grant in the last several weeks alone. Well-known singer Debby Boone is scheduled to perform Dec. 14.
Revenue for the performing arts center jumped from $511,003 in 2012 to $898,895 so far this year, an audit provided to The Greeneville Sun shows.
NPAC's expenditures also increased from 2012 to 2013, moving from $561,926 to $891,149.
The sharp increases in revenue and expenditures were planned, Executive Director Tom Bullard said, as a way to increase "quality and quantity of performances." Bullard has been at his post since January 2013.
Dr. Antonio Bos, an economics professor at Tusculum College, said NPAC indirectly pumps millions into the local economy.
"Based on NPAC's direct total revenue and the indirect benefits to local businesses -- hotels, restaurants and the like -- I estimate that NPAC is providing a multi-million-dollar contribution to the Greeneville economy every year," he said.
"As the center becomes a more recognizable destination throughout the region and state, I expect the economic contribution to become more significant in the coming years."
During the first 10 performances of the 2013 season, more than 50 percent of guests who attended NPAC shows were from outside the county, according to data provided by Bullard. Of that number, 70 percent were first-time visitors.
Guests attending NPAC this year have come from 15 different home states, including neighboring North Carolina and Virginia and as far away as Pennsylvania and New York.
Visitors have come from 31 counties in Tennessee, 16 in North Carolina and 15 in Virginia, Bullard said.
RESTAURANTS, HOTELS BENEFIT
The General Morgan Inn sees an uptick in guests whenever NPAC has a show, General Manager Bob Cantler said.
"We partner very well with the performing arts center," Cantler said. "In addition to performers that are coming in, we host a lot of friends that are traveling in to stay at the hotel."
A performance at NPAC also brings a spurt in customers to Brumley's restaurant and bar at the General Morgan.
"On show nights, Brumley's restaurant experiences an increase of diners, so much so that we've developed special menus that are designed for guests to come in and quickly be served and get to the performing arts center in time for their show," Cantler said.
Also enjoying a boost in customers on nights that NPAC hosts a program are Appleebee's and Fatz Cafe.
"We really do," said Linda Jennings, general manager at Appleebee's. "It has really helped."
Tammie Gass, operating partner at Fatz, echoed similar sentiments.
"We definitely always see an increase," Gass said. "We normally have to schedule our staff accordingly."
Hampton Inn also sees a modest gain in guests when performances come to NPAC, General Manager Elaine Cutshall said.
NPAC, open since 2004, serves as an entertainment and arts venue in East Tennessee.
A nonprofit organization, NPAC is sustained by contributions, Bullard said.
Contributions totaled the bulk of revenue for NPAC in 2013 at $550,527, and admission prices provided $248,197, the audit shows.
Donations come from Greeneville and Greene County government, corporate partners, grants and individuals, Bullard said.
"One of the primary goals is to offer quality, affordable entertainment options for the region. Another is to continue to increase our average attendance," Bullard said.
"This season we have already doubled the average attendance for our performances. Next season we will be offering an even wider selection of entertainment, including a youth/family series of performances that will include matinees."