Don’t we all like to be associated with something that is the best in the nation? How about being part of something that’s ranked #1 in the U.S.?
If you’ve been to the Morrison Center on Boise State University’s campus lately, you can check that off your list. The Center has just been ranked the top university presenting facility in the country, ahead of theatres at places like the University of Nebraska, University of Michigan-Michigan State, and Indiana University. Not bad company to be part of. Even better to be leading.
So what’s so great about the world class Morrison Center? In a word that increasingly defines Boise State and Boise, innovation.
I’ve been struck by what the place has done in the last few years. It involves turning a disadvantage into an advantage, doing things differently to get better, and lots of listening to customers. The Morrison Center epitomizes organizational creativity in unexpected places.
James Patrick, the Center’s Executive Director, sees the Morrison Center as a way to bring the world to Boise and Boise to the world. Sitting in the most isolated city in the U.S. could be a disadvantage, but he disagrees. Patrick uses location as a way to entice Broadway shows, like War Horse, Cirque Dreams, and Memphis, to come to Boise first to do an “out of town tryout,” before going national. Starting in Boise also is a springboard for western tours to San Francisco, Salt Lake City or Eugene.
In addition, we know that Boise is “freakishly friendly,” as Red Sky CEO Jess Flynn often says. For the Morrison Center, that means offering outstanding service and being “easy to do business with,” which is a competitive advantage. Crews come to work and fall in love with the city, and that brings them back for future show tryouts.
Finally, the Center has found ways to be creative and do things differently. That means listening to customers and adjusting to meet different needs. For example, some shows don’t need the full 2000 seat auditorium, but rather require something more intimate. The solution? A “flex curtain system,” which masks off the balcony, making it “disappear.” Different productions, more users, more satisfied customers.
So what’s the pay off that the Morrison Center brings to Boise and the university?
First, great economic benefits. The Center has 200 bookings annually, bringing in $5-8 million and 130,000 patrons. It employs hundreds of part time and out of town workers, bringing revenue for hotels, restaurants and car rentals.
Second: great visibility. The Center consistently ranks as a leading theatre venue in the Pacific Northwest, and, according to Money Magazine in 2014, is a key reason Boise is a top place to retire.
Third, great example. The Center has dropped its energy use from 188,000 kwh to 28,000 kwh: good for the environment, good for operating costs.
Nice example of creativity in unexpected places. Where else they might they lurk?