Kent’s ShoWare Center shows profit for first six months for first time

City-owned arena has lost money each year since opening in 2009

For the first time since it opened in 2009, the accesso ShoWare Center in Kent turned a profit for the first six months of the year.

ShoWare made $16,452 in the first half of 2018 with revenues of $1.647 million and expenses of $1.630 million, according to the income statement ending June 30.

“I don’t know if we’ve been profitable for the first six months of the year in the past,” said Mike Miller, chair of the Public Facilities District Board that helps oversee operations of the $84.5 million arena, at the group’s July 26 meeting.

“It is the first time there has been a profit for the first half of the year,” ShoWare Director of Finance Arletta Voter confirmed in a Monday email.

ShoWare has lost money each year since it opened in 2009, a total of $3.9 million. The arena had its best year in 2016 when it lost $155,268. Through the first half of 2016, the arena lost $23,788.

Several highly attended concerts in April helped bring in more revenue. SMG, which operates the arena, projected a loss of $264,522 through the first six months as it doesn’t count concerts toward income unless they have been booked far ahead of time. The concerts helped boost rental income by $193,858 above budget and increasd food and beverage concessions by $100,824 above budget.

More than 7,000 attended the sold-out concert by Banda MS, a regional Mexican group, on April 8. The heavy metal band Judas Priest drew more than 6,000 on April 15 and rapper Post Malone attracted 6,500 on April 29.

With the extra concerts, the city’s admission tax (5 percent on each ticket) brought in $260,263 through the first six months, funds counted separately from the profit/loss statement. The admission tax money goes to the city’s general fund rather than the arena’s income statement. The city then moves that admission tax money to its arena operating budget to help cover any losses help pay for capital improvement projects at the ShoWare.

“From a cash flow standpoint it’s really important to the city because they were taking money out of the operating fund to cover the overhead at ShoWare and we no longer have that situation with the admission tax,” Miller said during an interview after the board meeting.

The admission tax brought in just $43,458 the first six months of 2016, so things are definitely looking better at the arena.

Miller expects the positive trend to continue. He said ShoWare general manager Tim Higgins has worked hard to bring in more concerts. Higgins missed the Public Facilities District meeting last week to attend a concert promoters gathering in Toronto.

“It looks like we have a decent six months coming up,” Miller said. “I think Tim has really established an excellent rapport with several promoters, particularly with Live Nation to bring these concerts in.

“I would expect that to continue and hopefully we can come close to a break even this year from an operating standpoint.”

Concerts coming up

Other concerts scheduled for later this year include singer Ms. Lauryn Hill on Sept. 15, rapper Lil Dicky on Oct. 17, rapper Russ on Nov. 15 and the Christian rock band Newsboys on Nov. 16. The popular Disney On Ice returns for 10 shows Nov. 1-5. The Seattle Thunderbirds junior hockey team, the arena’s anchor tenant, begins the 2018-2019 Western Hockey League season Sept. 22 and the Tacoma Stars open their Major Arena Soccer League season in December.

“It’s been a really great second quarter and we are excited to see where we go for the third and fourth quarters,” said Erin Buck, ShoWare marketing director.

SMG is booking events for 2019 as well, including the 2019 Gut Check Challenge on Jan. 4-6 that will feature six college teams with about 100 wrestlers and 70-plus high school teams with nearly 900 wrestlers. The Washington State Wrestling Foundation began the tournament in 2014 in Kitsap County and decided to move to the ShoWare for a larger venue.

The Kent Downtown Partnership is sponsoring the wrestling tournament that is expected to bring plenty of business to local hotels and restaurants.

The arena has an economic impact of about $25 million per year on the city, according to a consultant study several years ago, much of it at area restaurants, including the nearby Kent Station shopping center.

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