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City of Kent to spend $545,000 on ShoWare Center for fan safety during COVID-19

Safer environment for when crowds can potentially return later in the year

The city of Kent will spend about $545,000 to make the accesso ShoWare Center a safer environment for fans during COVID-19 and beyond when the arena eventually reopens.

“We recently installed the upgraded filters, touchless hand soap dispensers and touchless towel dispensers throughout the venue,” ShoWare Center general manager Tim Higgins said in a Feb. 20 email about several steps already taken. “We are in process of installing all touchless flush valves. All other equipment will be purchased and installed over the next few months. The equipment will be in place and ready for when we are allowed to have fans back watching the Thunderbirds (hockey team) and other great shows.”

The $84.5 million arena has been closed to entertainment since last March due to COVID-19 restrictions in the state.

The Seattle Thunderbirds are scheduled to return to Western Hockey League play March 19, but without fans at its expected 12 games at the city-owned ShoWare Center. The arena has two ticketed events listed on its website, a X League women’s football game on July 31 and the popular Mexican group Grupo Firme on Sept. 18.

“With vaccines, we are hoping for full capacity shows in the late third and fourth quarters,” Higgins said about possibly reopening this fall. “We are also holding (dates) for four concerts and Disney on Ice. None of these are on sale at this time, and we are preparing for the possibility we can open in the third quarter.”

The ShoWare Center will follow industry standards established by other entertainment venues to focus on detailed, advanced and thorough methods to create a safe environment for all who enter the arena, City Finance director Paula Painter said in an email about the reasons the City Council in December approved moving money from the general fund budget to the ShoWare Center operating fund for reopening costs.

“The confidence of guests, staff, artists, tenants and media with the safety of the facility and the event experience is of the utmost importance for future success,” Painter said.

Funds will be spent on such items as:

• Contactless/touch free ticket scanners

• Touchless paper dispensers

• Touchless flush valves

• Signage

• Outdoor public address system

• Walk-thru metal detectors

• Air purification system with increased filtration

• Sanitation equipment

• Food and beverage distribution hardware

• Staff COVID-19 training materials

The city’s ShoWare Center operating fund is mainly financed by the city’s 5% admissions tax on each ticket sold since the arena opened in 2009. The city has transferred the money from the tax (which goes to the general fund) to the ShoWare operating fund. The city collected $412,601 from the admission tax in 2019.

The account has a balance of about $3 million, which will drop to about $2.4 million with the reopening expenses.

Since the opening of the arena, approximately $1.1 million of fund balance has been spent, Painter said in an email.

Of that $1.1 million spent, $470,000 was used for capital expenditures, including repairs necessary for a defect issue with the ice floor, new menu boards, new carpet and other items. The remainder was used to help cover operating expenditures over the years.

The arena has lost about $4.8 million since it opened based on income statements from SMG, which contracts with the city to operate the ShoWare Center. The city covers those losses from its general fund.


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