Renting out Trinity: the pro’s and con’s of renting out Laurie Auditorium

After the economic downturn, commercial events at Laurie Auditorium nearly came to a halt, but now more productions are coming to campus.

“We saw a significant downturn in commercial bookings during the recession, as did most venues,” said Kevin Hawkins, director of Laurie Auditorium. “We haven’t done as many events since the economic downturn, but it’s starting to come back. I am hopeful that over the next 18 months we see an increase in commercial bookings.”

It costs $2,200 per day to rent Laurie Auditorium. Community groups get a discounted rate of $1,000 per day. Meanwhile, campus organizations and university-sponsored events are allowed to rent Laurie Auditorium free of charge.

“Bear in mind that it is not Laurie’s primary function to act as a commercial house,” Hawkins said. “Rather, Laurie operates as a university resource that serves the entire community both on campus and off.”

While Laurie Auditorium does not generate a profit, revenue from commercial and community bookings does go toward paying off the expenses of running the auditorium.

“If we were operating as a commercial theater, we would be a disaster,” Hawkins said. “We have never been tasked by the university to make a profit. Our goal is to cover our expenses and to provide a service to Trinity and the community.”

Events booked by community organizations at Laurie Auditorium offer Trinity students an opportunity to connect with the community without leaving campus.

“Our students often talk about breaking out of the “˜bubble,’ and it works both ways,” said David Tuttle, associate vice president of student affairs and  dean of students. “Allowing elementary students to come in for performances and allowing naturalization ceremonies is a great way to support others in the community.”

While commercial and community bookings provide benefits to the university in the form of extra revenue and student opportunities, such events can also cause parking concerns for students.

“There have been a few times when I’ve had some major problems getting to class on time,” senior Nathan Tinker said. “These events at Laurie can congest the parking situation and make it really difficult on seniors who live off campus.”

Recently, Laurie Auditorium hosted the Technology, Entertainment and Design (TED)  conference and Anthony Bourdain. In different years, Fleetwood Mac, Duran Duran, Kurt Vonnegut and Bill Cosby came to Laurie Auditorium.

“We’ve done some really cool shows. Every year students are surprised at the kind of acts that come through here,” Hawkins said. “It’s unusual for a university of our size to have an auditorium the size of Laurie,” Hawkins said. “It’s very unique, and it affords the university a lot of opportunities that our peer institutions don’t have the capacity for.”

According to Hawkins, most events at Laurie Auditorium are held at night or during the weekend and as such do not create significant traffic issues that could interfere with students trying to get to class.

“I think we all grumble when parking is limited, but I support having these events,” Tuttle said. “TUPD sends notices in advance so people can plan accordingly. Sometimes students feel that, as tuition-payers, they should have priority. They generally do, but some days we all get a little inconvenienced.”

According to Sean Solis,vice president of  Association of Student Representatives and chairman of the Traffic and Parking Committee, complaints have been filed by students regarding parking challenges on dates that Laurie hosts events.

“I know that TUPD actually gets a lot of emails, specifically Chief Chapa, from different students complaining about the lack of spaces on days that they do have those events,” Solis said. “It’s more of a “˜that’s life’ type of mentality. I know that it’s up to the administration… but there hasn’t been much done to address that issue unfortunately.”

ASR encourages students to speak to their respective ASR senators or contact them via email at [email protected] with parking-related concerns.

“I would suggest that they bring their complaints to either myself or ASR. Unfortunately, we haven’t gotten a lot of complaints directly,” Solis said. “I think it would be helpful if that was more of the case, so we could actually show that we have students who have come to us, and that gives us reason to take action on the issue.”