Artisphere Visitor Revenue 75 Percent Below Expectations

by ARLnow.com April 1, 2011 at 11:39 am 11,685 117 Comments

Thanks to various delays and lower-than-expected demand, Artisphere will fall well short of its initially projected ticket and admission revenue for FY 2011.

In a presentation to the county board yesterday, county staff revealed that Artisphere admission and ticket income is projected at $174,202 for the financial year ending on June 30, 75 percent below the $789,912 in revenue that planners expected.

The shortfall was first reported in the Sun Gazette Editor’s Notebook blog.

Located in Rosslyn, Artisphere opened on Oct. 10 as the county’s premier arts and entertainment venue. The county originally expected Artisphere would attract 250,000 annual visitors. Since opening, it has attracted 48,169 visitors.

Artisphere’s online ticketing service didn’t launch until January and its restaurant is only expected to open next week — two factors that staff says has negatively impacted revenue and attendance figures.

Due to the ticket and admission discrepancy and other revenue shortfalls, Artisphere will fall $809,477 short of meeting its budget goals this year. With staff not recommending any spending cuts at Artishere, the shortfall will likely be paid by Arlington County taxpayers. The county had already allocated more than $700,000 in funding for Artisphere during FY 2011, while the Rosslyn Business Improvement Corporation allocated more than $600,000.

For FY 2012, staff is projecting that admission and ticketing revenue will fall $455,000 short of original expectations, while expenses will be $462,000 higher than expectations. One bright spot is fundraising, which is now expected to come in at $200,000 above projections. All told, staff expects Artisphere will need another $791,1356 in taxpayer support above and beyond the County Manager’s proposed FY 2012 budget.

County spokeswoman Diana Sun says Artisphere’s budget situation “has everyone’s attention.”

“Artisphere is an important part of the revitalization of Rosslyn,” Sun said. “The County Manager has asked for a revised business plan for Artisphere by summer.”

  • ARLSouth

    Can this please be the last Artisphere article?

    • Lou

      I hope there is one more after this one.

      • Me too… Dealing with it being shuttered.

        • R0bespierre

          Rampant Bourgeoisie NoVA Philistinism: 1
          Idealist Art Nerds: 0

    • BallstonNOTBoston


      • MktCommon

        Never would have heard of Artisphere if weren’t for ArlNow … a lack of publicity that correlates with the low ticket sales/interest perhaps?

  • Dante from Clerks

    That space would make a great floor hockey rink.

    • Hockey_eh

      won’t the floor hockey be at Long Bridge Park?

  • MIchael H.

    What are they spending all their money on? One of the links mentions that they “had” to hire people at a higher salary than budgeted. That doesn’t make too much sense.

    I don’t want to see an arts center fail, but if the revenue isn’t there, then they should consider scaling back on the spending, at least until revenue stabilizes. A revised business plan is a good idea.

  • Chef D

    For rizze, the Here be bring the peeps for the grinds bro, mad grinds, yo.

  • meh..

    Sorry to say it…but somebody should….Artisphere is a dud. There are better art galleries in the region. Not to mention the fact that the cost of admission is absurdly high when you factor in parking, admission AND the fact that as an Arlington resident, i’m already paying for it through taxes.
    I went during the free admission period and BOY am I glad I did! I would have been really sore had I paid to see that mess.

    • Tabby

      It’s one of those places I “keep meaning to check out” but it’s not really on the radar–mainly because there’s nothing else around there of note.

      Rosslyn is so ugly, and fairly inconvenient. As a South Arl resident, I’d have to take the ART 77 or 41 to Court House, and walk or jump on the metro. Or drive, and deal with the parking yada yada.

      • Aaron

        Keeping the southie infestation from spreading to Rosslyn, maybe this County Board isn’t as awful as I thought.

    • Wait… you have to PAY to go in there?!??!

      • Tabby

        Not clear from the website–other than for events.

        • kc

          It’s noted below also, but to emphasize, certain events have admission costs but the art exhibits are free. I was there Tuesday evening to walk through the Hamtdaa exhibit (Mongolian art) and there is no fee. No one else around for the art but about a dozen folks at the salsa dancing.

    • Lark

      I have been to Artisphere several times for events and it’s a great space! You do not have to pay for an admission fee. Tickets are only required for special events such as Washington Shakespeare plays, Urban Arias, and Dance nights…events you would have to pay for otherwise. Parking in the garage is free in the evening and weekends.

      So, everyone rather support programming in the District than in their own neighborhood? Oh okay.

  • JamesE

    Please refund my property tax.

  • Arlwhenever

    I don’t understand it. Tourists stop me all the time — I mean at the tidal basin, in front of the monuments, on Capital Hill, down at Mt. Vernon, and in Arlington Cemetery — and ask where is the Artisphere and how do I get there. Maybe if we built a streetcar to it?

    • JimPB

      ARTWHENEVER — Remember that the Newseum relocated to D.C. so that it would be more accessible to and draw in more tourists.

      • Arlwhenever

        You mean the Newseum attracts tourists already going to the National Gallery of Art, the National Portrait Gallery, the Freer, the Corcoran, the National Mueseum of African Art, the Phillips, the American Art Meuseum, the African Art Museum, the Renwick Gallery, the Sackler Gallery and the Hirshorn? Fancy that, wow that sounds actually like good planning. Well then seeing we got this gallery/artsypherey thingamajigger located distant from the mainstream tourist spots, hey I got a great idea, how about the County pays TourMobile to add a stop at the Artisphere. We could really pull business into the County that way. What do you think?

      • Lamar

        News Flash for you–Nobody’s going to the Newseum in DC either: http://gannettblog.blogspot.com/2010/12/all-shook-up-as-newseums-operating.html

        • Burger

          In other words, unless it is a freaking cool idea i.e. the Spy Museum, you better be really interesting to compete against free Museums.

        • MIchael H.

          Hmm, I occasionally wonder about the Newseum’s finances because of the high admission fee. I went there a few years ago. The museum is actually pretty good. Many items of interest, including a guard tower and a long section from the Berlin Wall (much larger than the section in the Reagan Building), and the large antenna structure from the top of the former WTC in NYC. The FBI exhibit was intriguing too. That includes the Unabomber’s entire backwoods cabin, a large machine gun from the Branch Davidians, and a mockup of the D.C. sniper’s car that was used by prosecutors at his trial.

          But because of the admission fee, I haven’t been back there in a few years. If the foundation is indeed that incompetent and possibly fraudulent, maybe the Smithsonian could be persuaded to take over the Newseum. They have a great location and a great interior display space. Plus the rooftop balcony overlooking Pennsylvania Ave. is one of the best downtown observation spots around. I’d hate for that building to become another shopping mall/office building. There are plenty of those around.

  • Overgrown Bush

    Maybe HERE will bring in the business……

    • FoodCritic

      sounds from the headline like the restaurant will be called HERE today, and GONE tomorrow

  • SoCo Resident

    At what point, does the County stare the taxpayers in the face and say the decent thing here: “We made a huge mistake!” Any local government funded entity, such as Artisphere, that is not recommending some ways to streamline its operations should be zeroed out. As for the restaurant, serving some burgers, chicken sandwiches and 8 kinds of beer (Wow) is NOT very exciting and certainly not crowd-drawing! Time to bail this one. P.S. Despite all the reskining of Rosslyn, sure looks the same uninviting place to me.

    • kim

      No way will that happen. Three County Board members are running for office this year.

    • Truthi

      Its actually much worse than that. The developer would have given Arlington 10 mill if we gave up the space. Instead and to pander to the arts fartsy crowd, we spent 6 million upgrading the space. This is why I never vote for these idiots.

  • Greg

    If this whole Art thing doesn’t work out I say Dremo’s!

  • TiredOldJokeMan

    I hear Dremo’s is eyeing the space… 🙂

    • TiredOldJokeMan

      Beat me to it !

    • JamesE


      • Aaronsphere

        If Dremo’s moved there, I would go.
        There would even be room for art.
        We can share.
        Otherwise, give me my tax dollars back!

    • Greg

      Got you by a few seconds!

  • Vinh An Nguyen

    I agree with most of above, but it’s only been open less the six months. Give it a chance.

    • Burger

      The old rule of business is you don’t demonstrate you are going to make it in the 1st 6 months…you aren’t going to make it.

      • AllenB

        That’s entirely not true. It can take some businesses 2-3 years to gain a solid footing and following. I’m not defending the Artisphere by any means but to say a business can’t make it after rough opening is just not true.

        • Burger

          I didn’t say profitable. I mean any business that is going to succeed better sure have a clientele that wants to come to your business by 6 months out and pass along that information to others and demonstratable growth or its not going to succeed.

        • Suburban Not Urban


      • MIchael H.

        The online ticketing service has only been available for a couple months, and the restaurant hasn’t even opened yet. I think it would be smarter to see how the Artisphere holds up when all of the key pieces are in place. While the first 6 months look disastrous, maybe things will turn around once people get used to the online ticketing and start to visit the restaurant.

        I haven’t been to there yet, so I can’t comment on the quality of the place. But since the money has already been spent, I think it’s better to see how the concept holds up when the important elements are there. They weren’t there before.

  • NOVApologist

    Much better programming and promotion would help.

    Nobody should pay for parking on nights and weekends. Street parking abounds after working hours. Roslynn is no Clarendon.

    • Thes

      Parking at the Artisphere is free with the validation stamp they provide all visitors. There are some short operas playing there tonight. You can test it out.

      • Thes

        Oops. I screwed up the link to where you can test out tonight’s professional opera performances at the Artisphere, which are showing at 6:30 and 8:30. You can see for yourself what the facility is like.

  • SD

    Aside from this site, I have heard nothing about this place. They should spend more money on marketing.

    • Tre

      I hadn’t heard about the Sphere of Mystery until now…. if marketing isn’t in their budget (clearly it isn’t)… they need to do next best thing: Controversy… i’m guessing some kind of exhibit or event that is political/racial in nature with a mix of nudity and abstract shapes.
      … or they could pay Remy to make a video about it (although they would probably bear the brunt of all his jokes).

      I get this sense that Arlington businesses rely too much on word of mouth and location, and as a result underperform (e.g. American Flatbread). If you are not popping up in peoples line of thoughts, they forget about it over time. What someone should actually do (ARLNOW??) is create an Advertising Ring for all Arlington related websites. Whether people monetize it or not, rotating banners for all the Arlington business on Arlington websites would create a lot more awareness (than random ‘Ads by Google’ telling me to join Groupon or die).

      /end rant

      • Funny you should say that, Remy actually was paid to do a music video for Artisphere, before it was known named Artisphere. http://www.youtube.com/user/arlingtoncounty#p/c/0/in1PtuhhT5c

      • Aaron

        Needs more controversy? I guess Tre missed the big same-sex snogfest that’s been the only major event at the Artisphere to date.

      • AllenB

        But it was HOT!

        • Not my cup of tea, but whatever floats your boat.

  • Valerie

    Admission to the exhibits is free, WiFi is free,lots of room to meet friends and now, have a drink other than coffee.
    There is a charge for shows and special events, but much less than Kennedy Center or downtown DC.
    Parking in the evening and weekends is free.
    Two blocks from two Metro lines at Rosslyn stop, get real Shirlington!

    • Realistic

      Valerie, I bet you work for the marketing staff! I hope the tax payers who are having to pay for this are happy. Especially when County services and jobs are being cut to fund the expensive sphere. For once, I would like to see projects like this put to a vote by County tax payers who are funding it and not by someone who has a dream, BUILD IT AND THEY WILL COME!

      • Arlington, Northside

        Wasn’t there a bond vote for this thing?

        • Wayne Kubicki

          Nope – no specific bond vote for this, ever.

      • Jack

        Well it certainly doesn’t help when people spread misinformation about the cost of parking (Free at night) and admission (also free, except for ticketed shows). With the bar opening and a restaurant, the space could get a lot of use. But until the restaurant is in full swing next week, who knows? The opening party for the restaurant is tonight.

  • Thomas Carlyle

    Time for another kiss-in.

    • Liberace

      Where’s KalashniKEV?

  • Bluemontsince1961

    Can we say W-h-i-t-e E-l-e-p-h-a-n-t….

    Dear Zimmie, Babs, Mary, Jay, and Walt – I want my property tax refunded! You can have my money when you start spending it on things useful for ALL Arlingtonians, not some boondoggle like the Artisphere, the Pike Trolley, or some fancy fountain in a dog park.

  • Burger

    Gee…how can anyone be shocked by this outcome. All the County Board needed to do was given me have the money they dumped into this money pit with me and I could have told you this when the idea was stupid.

    But, let’s get ready for the next big money pit the County Board is going waste county tax payer money on…the Columbia Pike Trolley.

    • Overgrown Bush


  • Chris L.

    Bluemontsince1961 said it best. Reflects my sentiments entirely. I too am sick of the Arlington County Board spending our money on these assorted “latte” projects. Of course, we can all stand by for another tax increase this year.

  • Bluemontsince1961

    You said it, Chris L,

    The County Board (the same bunch have been in there for what seems like at least the past decade) impresses me as looking down their patrician noses at us “peasants”, telling us what is “good for us” with an attitude of “let them eat cake.” Yep, you can count on another property tax increase. Gotta fund Zimmie’s Pike Trolley, you know.

    • Hattie McDaniel

      Perhaps you should expend some energy to unseat them.

      • Bluemontsince1961

        For at least the past decade, if not longer, there have been attempts to unseat them. Every candidate that runs against “the Politburo” looses, whether the challenger has been an Independent, a Republican (rare since the early 90s), or another Democrat. Apparently, most voters in Arlington are OK with the current Board no matter what the members of that Board do.

        • Bob

          Not exactly. Most voters look around at other jurisdictions (both regionally and nationally), see the mess that most of them are in, and conclude that the Arlington County Board has done a damn good job in the last 10 years.

          • Bluemontsince1961

            Maybe. I’ve lived in Arlington all but six months of my life. I probably have a different perspective. Most of the population in the DC metro area, not just Arlington, have come to live in this area from somewhere else.

          • AllenB

            It makes no difference where we came from, we’re all here now. And compared to other jurisdictions, our financial affairs are just fine.

          • charlie

            actually, no, they aren’t. we have a serious card house being built.

            the debt-to-citizen ratio is the HIGHEST it has ever been. We are financing all of these junkets. And have multiple games of find the money underway.

            Ron Carlee played games with our money like no tomorrow.

          • AllenB

            You’re looking at one part of the equation and saying that because we have high debt that we are in bad shape. Our real estate values have bounced back to close to pre-crash values. Our tax base is growing. Many new projects by developers are under way. Our pension plan is largely completely funded. And our budget is in balance this year without the need for a tax increase or any service cuts. I’d say any other locality would love to have our finances, high debt and all.

          • charlie

            you are right, compared to other jurisdictions our affairs are fine.
            BUT, that isn’t a good comparison right now.
            We need to lower our debt. We could pay for more fun things on pay-go if we had less debt.

          • RosRes

            Actually, Bluemontsince1961 I would say that your NOT having lived other places means you’re too spoiled by Arlington to know how good we have it here. Try spending several years living somewhere else, then come back and complain.

      • Sharon Angle style.

        • AllenB

          That would be fantastic. Do it just like Sharon Angle, show what kind of a halfwit you are and lose by several points.

  • BoringDan

    Maybe they can lease the space to a Wegman’s. Just need more parking.

    • kim

      You would need at least 500 parking spaces for a Wegmans.

  • Bluemontsince1961


    The Board would probably only lease it to Wegmans if they could let one of their favorite developers build yet another huge condo on top of it. Babs and Mary would be sure to restrict parking.

  • KalashniKEV

    Just list it on Craigslist as a cruising spot.

    • Liberace

      Aren’t I enough for you?

      • AllenB

        Bitch, I told you in another chain on here, he’s mine. Kev told me that last night that his heart is with me.

        • Liberace

          That two-timing hussy. And after I gave him the plastic surgery money so he could look more like me.

          • AllenB

            Plastic surgery? So THAT’S why he looks kinda like Joan Rivers.

    • Bluemontsince1961


  • charlie

    so we can LOOSE $700,000 a year on a NEW project and not find $250,000 for the planetarium or whatever is needed for Lubber Run.
    Sad sad sad.

    • Bluemontsince1961

      Just how things have been in Arlington for at least the past decade. Voting is always fun, just the same people, election after election. Even in tight economic times when every other community seems to cut back, the majority of voters in Arlington vote Yes for every single bond issue. I vote yes for some, but not for others. If Joe Average Taxpayer has to cut back expenses, so should our “government.” Regardless if the “government” is Democrat or Republican, don’t tell me to cut back or tighten my belt and then spend merrily on some $700,000 new white elephant project that only benefits a few Arlingtonians and raise my personal property tax every year.

    • KalashniKEV

      Who needs any of that crap?

      I want my money back!!!!!!1!

      • Bluemontsince1961

        Preachin’ to the converted, KalashniKEV.

    • me

      For comparison, Lubber Run’s operations budget the final few years of its use was $16,000 annually, including staff time.

      • Dan

        “For comparison, Lubber Run’s operations budget the final few years of its use was $16,000 annually, including staff time.”

        And that of course is the problem with it from the perspective of or current county board.

        Not splashy enough.

        • Lou

          And not close enough to Metro. How dare residents expect support from the county if they choose to live in low density neighborhoods away from transit.

    • 22204

      + 1000!!!

    • Aaronsphere

      VERY Sad.
      The Planetarium is a great resource that doesn’t cost much to influence thousands of kids a year. So tear it down and pour money down the drain-o-sphere.
      What’s a few million dollars, anyway.

  • Chef D

    Can i gets a chicken wing, puuuhhhhhhllllllleeeeeeaaaasssssseeee?

  • Donna

    Seen on another Arlington blog: deal to avoid a shutdown of the federal government is – federal workers will have to take 10 unpaid furlough days.

    • Aaron

      Oooh, maybe we can all hang out at the Artisphere! I hear they have free wifi and lots of parking.

    • AllenB

      Not sure the source of that info but it’s plain wrong. That’s not part of any planned savings to avoid the shutdown.

      • Lou

        April Fools?

        • AllenB

          Okay, then they got me.

  • 4One

    Breaking news… Rosslyn location selected as site of new year round shelter…

  • DL

    I have to agree that the location is pretty bad – there’s nothing going on in Rosslyn so there’s no foot traffic, so there’s no dropping in. But that said – I’ve been there, paid the ticket price and was extremely satisfied with the event Non-Stop Banghra – and there was a really good-sized crowd of Punjabis, etc (I am not one – and I was among the minority). IMHO there’s no word of mouth at all in Arlington. I lived in B-more for years and there’s tons of buzz and chatter up there. I hope they can figure it out because the concept is great, the events are great etc they just need to find more audience. And all you tax complainers get out of here!

  • DT

    That picture of Jay handing over a $7.3M check is priceless. Actually, its far from priceless. It has a price tag that could have saved many other artistic sites in the county. I would laugh if it wasn’t my money.

  • sklut

    Library hours cut back, Lubber Run shut down, athletic fields horribly maintained. But, why complain, we have the artisphere! Keep putting these clowns in office, Arlington.

  • NOVApologist

    Mongolian art exhibit AND salsa dancing!?!?

    I’m shocked that the place isn’t packed.

  • MC

    Amazing how many comments from so many people who are obviously never bothered to set foot in the Artisphere but but feel the urge to comment anyway.

    Arlnow commentary is getting stupider each month — it is ruining what makes Arlnow a valuable resource.

    Artisphere is a work in progress with good potential. I say that having visited there.

    • 4Arl

      ARLnow is a valuable resource in part because you see dissent that is sorely missing.
      If you add the $809K for backfilling this year’s budget and $791K for FY12, Artisphere is drawing well over a million dollars of over-budget resources at a time when other valued programs and services, including Lubber Run, Nature Centers, and even art supplies, arts grants, and artist fees are being cut over tens of thousands of dollars (http://www.arlingtonva.us/departments/ManagementAndFinance/budget/file81043.pdf). If you are an Artisphere supporter, I encourage you to visit the “revealed” link in the original post and see if you believe their reasoning or trust their financial management.
      And a quote from the 2009 FAAC report, “FAAC recommends that the County Board direct staff to

      • 4Arl

        … Develop a plan to make up for any possible revenue shortfalls

    • CH

      Absolutely concur – both about the space, and the cesspool of the commentary. Comments on internet news sites are incredibly base and vile as a matter of course… I guess I would expect that proximity, shared community, whatever you want to call it, would result in a more civil tone. Clearly, that’s not the case.

      • charlie

        are you suggesting that people temper their comments to meet your standards?

        I see tons of offensive stuff in here but generally let it go. If you don’t like it just read the article and ignore the comments. But, yes, it is like a good car wreck, we all just want to watch.

        personally some stuff arlington does makes me SO ANGRY and I KNOW that powers-to-be read ARLNOW because they want to see how people really think as opposed to the feedback they get from their lapdog civic friends.

    • DT

      What a response! “Yes, the revenues suck but maybe that’s because our expectations were too high. We are lowering our expectations to accommodate the crappy numbers from that giant steaming pile of sh!t we created”. I think I will ask my accountant to use this same method. Let’s hope the IRS is okay with it.

      • madisonmanor

        This should come as no surprise – the lowered expectation reaction is exactly the same as we got from APS when questioned on why their SAT scores per $$/student didn’t compare favorably with neighboring counties who had better/comparable scores while spending half as much money. Teacher salaries aren’t a factor, because most Arlington teachers don’t actually live in the county.

  • Rosslyner

    The Here opening party was well attended.

  • TuesdaysChild

    Add this to the list of wasted funds for which Jay will never apologize. He and the rest of the Board are out of touch with Arlington residents.

    • Dan


  • TuesdaysChild

    There should be no more funding for the Artisphere beyond the original budget. If it cannot make it as planned, they should close it now and cut future losses.

  • William

    arlingtonians continue to vote these bastards into office to waste our tax dollars. i’ve seen it for 30 years. and yes, i’m still here paying for their blunders. has anyone forgotten why the artisphere even exits? it was the result of another arlington county government blunder. the fly over bridge to take traffic around rosslyn that the engineering dept. calculated incorrectly. the bridge, etc. couldn’t be salvaged/repaired without exhorbitant expense so the county began looking for ways to use the area. first the newseum then artisphere. more on top of more waste by the arl. cty board. i’m not against what the artisphere should be. but i am against continuing to waster our tax dollars. a business couldn’t continue at this pace of loss, nor would it.

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  • Bureaucraku

    A bureaucracy
    Cannot and will not refuse
    To waste (your) money.


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