Poor Reggae on the River Attendance Leaves Mateel Community Center's Future in Question


This year's Reggae on the River. - FILE
  • File
  • This year's Reggae on the River.
Redway’s Mateel Community Center is in a state of crisis after its biggest annual fundraiser, Reggae on the River, not only failed to meet revenue projections but left the center with a “significant” debt.

“Very challenging times lie ahead, there are difficult decisions to make, and the future of both ROTR and the MCC is at stake,” Mateel General Manager Justin Crellin wrote in a letter to to the Southern Humboldt community, inviting it to a Sept. 19 meeting when he will share further detail of the Mateel’s financial state and what options are being considered.

In an email to the Journal, Crellin said it didn’t become clear that ROTR was in trouble until during and after the three-day music festival on the Eel River near Richardson Grove in early August. He said early ticket sales outpaced those of the year before but that last-minute sales, walk-up sales and single-day tickets all lagged way behind. The lower attendance also negatively impacted merchandise sales and other income streams at the 33-year-old festival, Crellin said. He added that organizers had worked to reduce spending on this year's festival and operations came in well below budget, just not nearly enough to make up for the diminished attendance.

In addition to putting on the annual festival, the Mateel is a fixture in the Southern Humboldt community, offering a free hot lunch program, youth arts and music programs, among other things. Crellin said staff has already been cut back to “essential hours,” with some layoffs having already occurred. “Presently we are looking to maintain our programs and events that are currently confirmed through the end of December but we will be holding off on adding things beyond this until a clearer path forward emerges — one that resolves our outstanding debt and more solidly enables us to commit to 2018 operations/planning,” he said, adding that various options are currently being explored, including “some rather encouraging ones.”

In the community letter, Crellin says Sept. 19 is also a chance to really discuss how the center can grow and adapt to meet the needs of a changing community. In his email to the Journal, he expanded on that point.

“I think in simple terms we are starting to see the effects the changing cannabis economy is having on our community and I know from speaking to other local business owners in town that many of their numbers are down too, underscoring that folks simply don’t have the money in their pockets they once did,” Crellin said. “I’m also not sure the influx of newer local residents feels the same connection to our larger community, back to the land type values, and the importance of supporting community institutions like Mateel or ROTR quite yet and this is something that needs to be fostered so that we are sure to be able to keep these institutions viable and relevant in the future as our community evolves its values, needs and desires change.”

Crellin declined to divulge hard financial numbers at this point, saying he’d prefer to share them with the community Sept. 19. He said he hopes folks will come to the meeting with an open mind, suggestions and willingness to do what they can to help the Mateel find a sustainable course forward.

See the full letter copied below, which includes details of the Sept. 19 meeting:

To the membership of the Mateel Community Center and the larger Southern Humboldt community,

Reggae On The River 2017 failed to meet its budgetary expectations and, for the first time in memory, the production sustained a significant loss. Truly the lifeblood of the Mateel Community Center, the center’s operations have for years relied heavily upon the consistent and anticipated success of this fundraiser- and without these proceeds (and a significant debt load) the community center is now at a difficult crossroads.

Very challenging times lie ahead, there are difficult decisions to make, and the future of both ROTR and the MCC is at stake. That said, there is also an opportunity here to re-examine as a community what our priorities are for the Mateel Community Center and re-evaluate not only what we need to keep the center viable in the long run, but also what is needed to stay relevant and functioning with the greatest beneficial impact for the entire community. Like it or not, our community and economy is changing, and this is a real fact we will need to come to terms with as a community. As a first step in this direction- for the Mateel Community Center anyway- we, the board and staff of MCC, would like to invite the community to join us Tuesday, September 19th- 6:30pm at MCC- 59 Rusk Ln in Redway to reflect on these matters.

We will discuss our current financial/ operational situation, answer questions/ review options, start to assess what the community wants its community center to be in the future, and talk ideas in setting a more sustainable course for the center in the years ahead. Major changes and an organizational re-structuring are certainties- and your participation as a concerned and involved community member is necessary. The community center truly is and always has been what we make it- and Mateel will survive this current adversity- even if it may look quite different on the other side. If ever there was a community that could do it though, it is ours. Please join us on September 19th and together we will embark on this difficult but necessary journey. Mateel Forever!

Justin Crellin
General Manager
Mateel Community Center

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