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Volume 35
Issue 09
 
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SOAP meets with Seattle Center in private meeting - Both parties silent about SOAP's proposal
SOAP meets with Seattle Center in private meeting - Both parties silent about SOAP's proposal
by Robert Raketty - SGN Staff Writer

In a private meeting on Thursday between representatives of Seattle Out and Proud, organizers of Seattle Pride in 2006, and John Merner, Seattle Center Director of Productions, the group sought to address the Seattle Center's concerns about the finances of the organization.

SOAP called the meeting last week after receiving a letter from Merner, dated February 16, that stated the Seattle Center had declared the group to be in "Default and Breach" of their three-year contract. The letter also stated that the Seattle Center would be releasing the dates for Seattle Pride 2007 and forwarding SOAP's account to the City of Seattle Law Department for collection.

SEATTLE CENTER, SOAP SILENT ON DETAILS OF PROPOSAL
A Seattle Center spokesperson confirmed on Thursday that Seattle Center officials had received a proposal from SOAP. "We received a proposal and it is under advisement," said Seattle Center spokesperson Keri Shaw. Shaw declined to comment further.

SOAP President Eric Albert-Gauthier declined to provide a copy of the proposal to the Seattle Gay News prior to the meeting or to discuss details about the proposal. However, Albert-Gauthier said he expects a response from the Seattle Center next week.

The conflict arose over SOAP's $100,026.33 debt to the Seattle Center for expenses it incurred during the three-day Seattle Pride Festival in 2006. According to the Seattle Center, many attempts had been made to collect the debt since last July.

The Seattle Center had informed SOAP as early as January 26, 2007, that payment on its debts would need to be received before February 15 or planning for Seattle Pride 2007 could not proceed. "Seattle Center is unable to hold any dates or make any other preparations for the '07 event unless your '06 festival financial obligations are met," Merner wrote in the second of three demand letters seeking payment. "As my previous e-mails and letters have stated we need to receive not only an agreed upon payment plan but also payment on or before February 15, 2007."

In an e-mail to Merner on February 15, SOAP Vice President Weston Sprigg included a proposed budget for a potential 2007 event at the Seattle Center. The plan included a proposed debt service payment of $40,000 from potential revenue earned from the 2007 event. It also provided for $65,000 towards 2007 expenses incurred by the Seattle Center, which is $40,000 below the actual cost in 2006.

Merner explained his reasons for rejecting the budget plan in a certified letter dated the next day. "...[O]n February 15, 2007 I am in receipt of a one-page e-mail from you, with no payment plan, simply a budget with a $40,000.00 payment to Seattle Center at some point after your 2007 festival and a vague commitment to resolve your debt to Seattle Center by the end of 2009," he wrote. "It is in this context that I tell you that I no longer have any faith in your ability to resolve this issue and inform you that we are declaring you in Default and Breach of the contract and are terminating the contract for cause under ... our agreement. We will be releasing your 2007 dates and forwarding your account to the City of Seattle Law Department for collections."

SEATTLE CENTER SAYS NO STICKER SHOCK
Sprigg also wrote in his e-mail to Merner that SOAP was "overwhelmed by the costs associated with holding the event at Seattle Center" and that the organization "still [has] some questions on the costs." However, Merner disputed this claim in his February 16 letter.

"On October 26, 2005 we met with Seattle Out and Proud and shared an 11-page detailed estimate of the cost of producing the Pride Festival at Seattle Center. That estimate was accurate within 0.6%. Your final bill came in $554.00 lower than the estimate," he wrote. "During the development of the festival Katie Plymale and I repeatedly advised your organization on ways that you could reduce your costs through better organization. We were regularly told that you had produced this festival for years and that the incremental costs were not a problem."

Albert-Gauthier told the SGN on Wednesday, that he hoped the two sides could reach an agreement. "We hope that we can go to the Seattle Center with a solid plan -- production and financial -- that both SOAP and Seattle Center can agree on, and secure the dates for Seattle Pride 2007 and beyond," he said.

CHARGING ADMISSION?
When asked on Wednesday if the proposal included charging admission, Albert-Gauthier dismissed the notion. "Our plan is to do what we can do to keep Seattle Pride as one of the largest free pride events in the country," he said. "At this time, we have no plans to charge admission. We will however have donation boxes along the parade route and at the festival and we will encourage people to donate."

Albert-Gauthier has remained adamant that SOAP will hold Seattle Pride at the Seattle Center in 2007. However, SOAP's attorney Dave Coffman has been cited in news reports as saying the group has entertained ideas of moving the event to Myrtle Edwards Park, charging to attend the event and becoming a for-profit corporation.

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