RiverEdge Park leader looks forward to 2014
By Stephanie Lulay firstname.lastname@example.org January 1, 2014 5:46PM
Updated: February 3, 2014 3:24PM
AURORA — If you had a great time or a bad time or an OK time at Aurora’s new RiverEdge Park this year, Tim Rater is taking it personally.
When the Aurora Civic Center Authority signed on to manage the park ahead of its opening in June, Rater added another job description to his resume this year — head of the city’s make-or-break multi-million dollar music venue.
What was it like to be the guy running the massive park?
“Stressful. Very stressful,” Rater said. “Everything was new and I feel like we learned a lot. It was exciting, but more often stressful.”
In an effort to ensure that the concert-going experience was top-notch, Rater was on the ground at RiverEdge Park for all but one event this summer. That perfect concert experience the ACCA team strives for called for easy parking, easy entrance, promptly-served food, likable beers and a comfortable seat with a nice view, he said.
“I take any experience extremely personally. So when someone has a bad experience, it bothers me,” Rater said. “There was a lot of risk (this season) and I didn’t want the Paramount Theatre to have a black eye, or the city to have a black eye.”
Despite opening season challenges, Rater said he is confident those who came to the park in 2013 are excited about coming back.
“So we’ll build on that,” he said.
Who is Rater pitching to headline at the park in 2014? ACCA has bids pending on country-pop trio Lady Antebellum, “Thrift Shop” rapper Macklemore, classic rock band REO Speedwagon and blues singer Jonny Lang, among others.
“We’re trying to be creative about who we’re getting,” Rater said. “The whole premise for this next summer is to offer a tremendous value to those who are willing to buy tickets (early).”
In addition to big-name acts and established Aurora fests such as Blues on the Fox and Fiestas Patrias, ACCA will aim to add creative, low-cost events at the park next summer, including an Irish Fest and beer festival.
While programming RiverEdge Park’s first season, Rater also supervised the Paramount’s “definitely more adult” 2013-2014 Broadway season. Rater was hired as executive director of the Paramount just before the theater’s 2010-2011 season.
The gamble of an edgier series, which included “In the Heights,” “Miss Saigon,” the now showing “42nd Street” and “Rent,” set to open in March, so far hasn’t turned out as well as Rater expected. Specifically, Rater expected a bigger box office payoff from the well-reviewed “In the Heights,” as the theater staged the first professional production of the musical in the Chicago area.
“We’ve taken a little dip in our subscription and it’s because of the titles,” he said.
The shows translated into a 10 percent hit to the Paramount’s subscriptions, Rater said. The theater sold about 19,800 subscriptions to the 2012-2013 series and about 18,000 subscriptions in 2013-2014.
Next season, the Paramount will focus on bigger, more family-friendly titles with longer runs. Rater said the Paramount will announce the 2014-2015 Broadway series on March 1 and the RiverEdge Park season shortly after.
The Paramount’s next season “is going to be the biggest season ever, no doubt about it,” Rater said.
ACCA — and likely Rater, barring any career changes — will continue to manage RiverEdge Park for at least the next three years.
Over time, Rater said he believes Aurora’s $13 million RiverEdge Park on the Fox River is going to be “amazing.”
“I really believe with all of my heart, this is just the beginning,” Rater said.