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Kent's ShoWare Center budget moves closer to breaking even

Friends and family cheer for their graduate June 11 at the ShoWare Center in Kent during the Kent-Meridian High School commencement. - CHARLES CORTES, Kent Reporter
Friends and family cheer for their graduate June 11 at the ShoWare Center in Kent during the Kent-Meridian High School commencement.
— image credit: CHARLES CORTES, Kent Reporter

The revenue numbers keep looking better at the ShoWare Center in Kent.

The city-owned arena had a loss of $40,762 for the second quarter of 2011, but ShoWare officials had projected a loss of $158,000 for the months of April, May and June.

"Things are going well," said Patrick McCluskey, ShoWare finance director, to the Public Facilities District board at its July 28 meeting. "We had way more events than we anticipated."

The board oversees operations of the $84.5 million arena that opened in January 2009 and has lost money for two consecutive years. The center made a profit of $11,729 in the first three months of 2011.

"We are meeting budget and that is a good thing," McCluskey said. "We are getting closer to the zero number. We anticipate to continue going this route until the end of the year."

The arena had expenses of $569,477 and receipts of $528,714 for April through June for a deficit of $40,762, according to the income statement provided by SMG, the operator of the ShoWare Center.

For the first six months of 2011, the arena has a deficit of $29,034, much lower than the $139,751 deficit SMG projected.

McCluskey said the Seattle Thunderbirds junior league hockey team, the anchor tenant of the arena, played five more home games in the first three months of this year than what arena operators had initially projected before the Western Hockey League released its 2010-11 schedule. The hockey season runs each year from September through March.

"The building is chugging along and we are starting to see the fruits of the building getting traction in the marketplace," said Ben Wolters, city economic and community development director, at the board meeting. "I give the ShoWare Center staff credit for the success."

City officials set aside money each year in the city's annual capital budget fund to cover the anticipated losses at the arena. If not needed for the arena, that money could be used to help pay for improvements to city streets, facilities and other capital projects.

The arena lost $398,000 in 2010 and $451,000 in 2009. The projected loss for this year is $139,000, which could drop if the arena keeps booking more events than anticipated.

"We're going to keep chipping away," Wolters said. "We're going to get there to get this building in the black. The question is when."

While August is a slow month for the arena, numerous highly attended events are coming up in the fall including the Ringling Bros. circus Sept. 1-5, a Boyz II Men concert Oct. 1, a Seattle Mist Lingerie Football League game Nov. 4 and Disney On Ice Toy Story 3 on Nov. 9-13. The T-Birds open the regular season Sept. 24.

ShoWare officials also were pleased to see the arena ranked No. 15 in the world for venues with 5,001 to 10,000 capacity on the Venues Today Top Stops Mid-Year list released in July. The rankings are based on based on ticket sales and attendance. The ShoWare Center seats 6,500.

Only figures from non-tenant events and concerts from Oct. 16, 2010 to May 15, 2011 count toward the Top Stops rankings, according to Venues Today magazine. Revenue generated by tenant sports teams and resident companies are not counted.

The ShoWare Center hosted 22 events during that period, with attendance of 86,880 and gross ticket sales of $2.4 million.

"It's nice to see our name on that list," said Beth Sylves, marketing director for the arena. "We anticipate seeing our name on that list frequently."

The Comcast Arena at Everett, one of the ShoWare's competitors for many events, ranked No. 19 with 15 events, attendance of 48,677 and ticket sales of $1.79 million.

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