Chattanooga’s Tivoli Theatre Foundation shows $43.6 million local economic impact

Tivoli Center renovations to add fourth venue in 2024

Staff photo by Troy Stolt / The Tivoli theatre is seen on Thursday, Oct. 8, 2020 in Chattanooga, Tenn. The Tivoli will be re-opening after shutting down because of coronavirus, with limited seating as well as other precautions to ensure social distancing.

The Tivoli Theatre Foundation, the organization that manages the Tivoli Theatre, Memorial Auditorium and Walker Theatre, reported this week the venues had a $43.6 million dollar economic impact on the Chattanooga and Hamilton County economy.

The finding is according to a report prepared by Rachel J.C. Fu, chairwoman and professor of the Department of Tourism, Hospitality & Event Management at the University of Florida.

"Our vision is to always be creative," said Nick Wilkinson, CEO of the Tivoli Theatre Foundation. "For more than 100 years, the Tivoli has been the centerpiece for arts and culture in our community. The Tivoli, along with the Soldiers and Sailors Memorial Auditorium and the Walker Theatre, are top tier economic and cultural generators."

According to the report, there were more than 155,000 tickets sold for more than 220 shows in the three venues in 2022.

Even with the Tivoli Theatre closed for half of the year for renovations, the attendance reflects the positive effects of a diverse schedule of events, Wilkinson said in a phone interview, adding that patrons came from all 50 states as well as Canada and Mexico. The Tivoli closed about halfway through 2022 and is slated to reopen sometime in late 2024.

Highlights of the report include:

-- $43.6 million impact with visitors providing $25.3 million in direct expenditures. Their activities and events also generated another $11 million in indirect and $7.3 million from induced sales.

-- 404 full-time equivalent jobs contributed by the Tivoli Theatre Foundation.

-- $24.1 million in added value for Hamilton County from total sales.

-- Tivoli Theatre Foundation visitors contributed $2.2 million in state and local taxes.

The Tivoli's Performing Arts Center, projected to be reopened in 2024 in the former Fowler Brothers building, will include ground floor retail, a rooftop bar, the new 250-seat Bobby Stone Theatre and educational programming for students and teachers. When all the work is done, the Tivoli and the Performing Arts Center will be in a more cohesive space instead of separate buildings side by side.

(READ MORE: Tivoli vandalism to cost tens of thousands)

"The new center and restored Tivoli Theatre will be the linchpin piece in bringing the Riverfront and the Southside together in the city center," Wilkinson said.

Chattanooga Symphony & Orchestra Executive Director John Kilkenny called the Tivoli home.

"We anxiously await getting back in there," Kilkenny said by phone.

The report also looked ahead at the possible 2025 forecasted impact and predicted that with the completion of the renovations at the Tivoli Theatre and the opening of the new Tivoli Performing Arts Center, the foundation could expect an economic impact of $81.8 million.

The Tivoli Theatre Foundation was created in 2015 to renovate and reimagine the historic venues while retaining relationships with the Chattanooga Symphony & Opera, the Chattanooga Ballet, the Chattanooga Boys Choir and other nonprofits. The Tivoli Theatre opened March 19, 1921. It was designed by Rapp and Rapp and R.H. Hunt, who also designed the Memorial Auditorium that was opened in 1922.

"As we enter our second century, our vision is only limited by the ability to be imaginative when bringing the performing arts to life," Wilkinson said in the release.

Contact Barry Courter at bcourter@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6354.