Charities rent out their own unusual spaces; Joffrey ballet studio, Lyric Opera stage

March 21, 2011
Crain's
Lisa Bertagnoli

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Non-profits looking for new ways to make money are finding unusual possibilities under their own roofs.

Joffrey Ballet Chicago rents its rehearsal studios, complete with floor-to-ceiling mirrors and barres, for weddings and other events. Rentals contribute about $200,000 a year to the ballet's $14-million annual budget, says Christopher Clinton Conway, executive director.

The seven studios have wooden floors “with a little bit of spring to them, which is fun,” Mr. Conway says; mirrors can be left exposed or covered with drapes. The studios rent for $2,000 for weddings and other private affairs; non-profits are charged a “ballpark” $1,000.

Lyric Opera of Chicago rents its 8,400-square-foot stage for $11,500 a day. Corporations and high-profile non-profits “really see it as a tie-in to the arts,” says Rich Regan, director of facilities.

American Cancer Society Illinois Division Inc. plans to rent the stage for its April 30 American Cancer Society Discover Ball, which draws 1,000 guests and nets more than $2 million. “Folks do expect a lot from high-profile events,” says Lee Kite, director of distinguished events. “We need to deliver amongst the competition.” The organization pays extra to expand the stage floor.

Maryville Academy, a Des Plaines social-services agency, tried to rent banquet and reception rooms at its Stevens Center, adjacent to All Saints Cemetery, for funeral luncheons. The organization marketed the space to funeral homes but got no takers, says Willie Simmons, director of operational services. Maryville, which regularly rents out its gym, is now looking at leasing the space “if the right tenant comes along,” Mr. Simmons says.