The Saenger Theatre has had a turbulent year. It began with the Center of the Living Arts relinquishing their management amidst downtown business owners and music lovers complaining about what was – or rather, what was not — being booked there.

With the city of Mobile temporarily at the helm, a search began for a management company that would nurture the legacy of this grand dame of Azalea City venues. Recently, the mayor’s office revealed its decision is to allow both SMG, which also manages the Civic Center, and Huka Productions, which books for Hangout Music Festival, to handle the Saenger. The City Council has not yet approved the deal, though.

However, there are those who are keeping a watchful eye on this partnership, including the Downtown Mobile Alliance.

“I’m hoping, and have expressed to the SMG team, that they will manage the facility better than the Civic Center,” said Downtown Alliance Communications Director Carol Hunter. “Because the Saenger is such an important cultural and economic asset, we have extremely high expectations of SMG, and they’ve assured us they’ll meet them. We will be watching very closely.”

Overall, Hunter remains optimistic as to the future of the Saenger. She went on to explain that the partnership with Huka will give the Saenger more opportunities to bring acts to the city. She also added that the performance-based contract will provide an incentive to keep the Saenger booked. With many local performances and productions using the Saenger, her only other concern is that facility rental fees will not increase.

“This management agreement only works with the partnership between SMG and Huka,” Hunter said. “SMG representatives tell us they will not risk money on shows and will be limited to rentals. However, Huka can bring in acts and share in the proceeds of a successful show. From past experience, it seems sharing in the risk and benefit from a sold-out show is the best way to cover the theater’s expenses and attract enough acts to keep it as busy as this community wants it to be.”

BayFest 2013 is just a month away, and more acts have been added to the festival’s huge line-up. In addition to T.I., Aaron Lewis and Sarah Percy, BayFest has announced the addition of R&B superstar R. Kelly. R. Kelly’s smooth vocal delivery has made him a modern king of soul. He is also an artist that knows how to step outside the box with the epic “Trapped in the Closet,” which is a 33-chapter rap opera.

Mobile native Blair Shotts will be making a trip from Los Angeles to perform at Alabama’s Largest Music Festival. BayFest attendees can catch this percussionist performing with Shawna P. & the Earthfunk Tribe as well as Joe Taylor and Sean O’Bryan Smith. Both Smith and Taylor have spent time on the road with Lady Antebellum, Keith Urban and Esperanza Spalding.