Losses at the Burnsville Performing Arts Center are on pace this year to pass the $1 million mark since the facility opened in 2009.

In that time, the BPAC also has had difficulty holding on to leaders. At the end of this month the center will be looking for its third executive director in three years.

Earlier this month, Jon Elbaum, who was hired just last year, announced that he has taken a job as executive director of the Troy Savings Bank Music Hall in Troy, N.Y. He will leave the Burnsville job at the end of August.

The center is run by VenuWorks, an Iowa-based management company. The company said it hopes to have a new director in place by November.

"You never like to have turnover," said Burnsville City Council Member Mary Sherry. And that is especially true with Elbaum, whom city officials praised for making major strides in turning around an operation that experienced losses from the start.

"Jon Elbaum has done a great job," said Assistant City Manager Tom Hansen, who helps oversee the facility. "We're very happy."

But not everyone in the city supports the facility, which has been controversial because of its cost, ongoing losses and failure to attract major development.

Although city officials say the center is on track to meet its budget for fiscal year 2011, that budget includes an operating deficit of $412,000.

By the end of this year, when those losses are combined with losses of $367,000 in 2010 and $540,000 in 2009, the center will have cost the city more than $1.3 million to operate.

Earlier this summer, the former chairman of the city's advisory committee called on the City Council to do away with Elbaum's position and terminate its contract with VenuWorks, thus saving more than $125,000 a year by handling facility operations itself.

But city officials do not seem inclined to do that. In fact, they seem to believe the losses could have been worse without Elbaum at the helm.

Hansen and others said Elbaum is business-oriented and has helped the facility come up with creative ways to increase bookings and revenues, including helping to create an "angel fund" that will be used to entice and sponsor some performers. Hansen said the city is hoping that VenuWorks will hire someone just like Elbaum.

The city will not be involved in the hiring, Hansen said, though a city representative will sit in on the interviews with candidates. The city does have veto power over a new hire under its contract with the company.

"VenuWorks is doing a good job," Hansen said. "We want someone like Jon Elbaum, a very good manager who knows the business."

Family calling

Elbaum wanted to stay but took the New York job to be closer to family. He has relatives nearby and also will have kids in college in the area.

"This opportunity in New York was very appealing," Elbaum said. "It allows me to be closer to my family."

Elbaum said his departure had nothing to do with critical comments from Paul Jacques, the former chairman of the advisory commission, who quit in July out of frustration with not having more of a voice with the City Council over the BPAC.

"It's strictly coincidental," he said. "My leaving is not that unusual. There is turnover in this business. We now have a strong foundation."

Heron Marquez • 952-707-9994