July 4 Rose Bowl Show in Red Again

August 15, 1985|DEBORAH HASTINGS | Times Staff Writer

PASADENA — This year's July 4 fireworks celebration at the Rose Bowl lost more than three times as much money as last year, which was the first time the event had lost money since it began in the 1920s.

This year's loss of an estimated $62,579, was attributed by city officials to lower-than-expected attendance and concession sales. The loss will be recovered from the Rose Bowl Fund, which administers the Arroyo Seco and is funded by proceeds from Rose Bowl events.

'Personally Disappointed'

The show also marked the first time that a member of the Board of City Directors co-sponsored the annual event.

Rick Cole, who co-sponsored the show with the Pasadena Star-News and the Pasadena Symphony, said this week: "I was personally disappointed that we didn't make a profit." But he added that a number of lessons were learned that will help future planning of the event.

After last year's celebration lost about $20,000--the first debt in the history of July 4 Rose Bowl shows--Cole had suggested that the board take a role in planning the program in order to preserve its long tradition and turn it back into a money-making event.

This year's show, however, cost an estimated $227,342 and earned $164,763.

"We just did not reach a crowd attendance at a break-even point," said Dave Jacobs, the former director of the Community and Recreation Services Department, which oversees the Rose Bowl staff. "Prior to last year's event, attendance was always very good," added Jacobs, who is now acting director of the Employee and Community Services Agency.

Symphony Was Paid

Among the larger expenditures for this year's show were $45,000 to Pyro Spectaculars for fireworks; $25,000 to the Pasadena Symphony for its performance during the program and about $17,000 to the Police Department for traffic control.

Other expenses included $11,344 paid to John Hinrichs for coordinating the show. Hinrichs, who worked for the city from April to July, is an independent consultant and political organizer who also coordinated Cole's election campaign in 1983 and this year ran Director Jess Hughston's reelection campaign in the March election.

Cole said Tuesday that Hinrichs was hired based on the recommendation of a volunteer committee working on various plans for the Independence Day show.

Hinrichs, however, said that he was asked to take the job by Cole.

When asked for clarification, Cole later said, "I called him up and asked him if he wanted to do it and he applied. At least three other people were asked if they wanted to do it, too. (Hinrichs) was the one who was chosen."

Attendance at the show, which featured a speech by Cole and performances by the Pasadena Symphony and a volunteer choir, was 29,471--about 5,000 short of the attendance needed to break even, Cole said. Tickets sold in advance of the event were priced at $5 for adults and $3 for children. Admission costs at the door were $6 and $4, respectively.

Planners had hoped for concession sales of $1.50 to $2 per person, based on sales from other events at the Rose Bowl. The concession sales averaged about 50 cents per person, a figure that Cole said added to the deficit.

Cole said there were a number of other factors that contributed to the deficit, including unexpected expenses, low ticket sales on the day of the event and the cancellation of other fireworks shows because of brush fires, which led some people to believe that the Rose Bowl show also had been canceled.

Traditionally, the Rose Bowl fireworks show has been a money-making event that attracts families with children. Until 1981, the show had been produced for two generations by the Fireman's Band Fund, a group of Pasadena firefighters who volunteered their time to put on the show, often hiring a circus to perform before the fireworks. Profits from the July 4 shows went to the band fund, which was used to support firefighters' athletic groups and an emergency loan fund and to buy items such as television sets and other conveniences for the city's fire stations.

According to Jim Crane, a former fireman and assistant city manager who planned several of the shows during the 1950s and '60s, production costs and the city's rental fee for the Rose Bowl escalated in recent years, prompting the firefighters to stop organizing the event.

Since 1981, the Rose Bowl staff and various other groups have sponsored the show, always managing, until last year, to draw a large crowd and make a profit.

In 1984, a series of problems plagued the show. The Osmond family canceled its scheduled performance at the last minute, leaving the Rose Bowl staff only five days to put together another program. Radio ads stating that the Osmonds would not be appearing at the Rose Bowl on July 4 gave the mistaken impression that there would be no show at all.

Attendance for that year's event was 16,942, down from 48,483 in 1983. Attendance figures have run as high as 60,000 in the past and average between 20,000 and 30,000. Cole said he was at the 1984 show and found it "extremely disappointing because it was put together on a rush basis." Because of that, he said, he recommended earlier this year that the board take steps to ensure that the shows continued as a successful tradition.

"It turned out to be a difficult and time-consuming assignment," Cole said this week.

Next year's show will be handled by the Centennial Committee, a group working on various events planned to celebrate Pasadena's 100th birthday in 1986.

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