Closed for all but the first two months of 2020 due to COVID-19, the city-owned accesso ShoWare Center in Kent lost $1.14 million last year.
The 6,200-seat arena had expenses of $2.45 million and revenue of $1.3 million, according to the ShoWare Center income statement released last week by SMG, which operates the $84.5 million facility.
“Our last event was March 8, 2020,” said Tim Higgins, ShoWare Center general manager, in a May 13 report to the Public Facilities District Board that helps oversee operations. “The first two months we had record revenue. It would have been our most profitable year. We were 148% up in the first two months compared to our previous record in 2016.”
Fifty-eight events were canceled for an estimated revenue loss of $1.6 million. The city’s 5% admissions tax on each ticket sold brought in just $138,501 in 2020 compared to $638,090 in 2019. That money goes to the city’s general fund.
Event income came in about $1.5 million under budget for 2020. Food and beverage concession sales were $975,943 under budget and rental income came in $806,568 under budget.
SMG reduced salaries and wages by nearly 50% from $2.4 million to $1.2 million. The operator laid off six full-time employees and eight other full-time employees were furloughed full or part time. More than 200 part-time employees were let go.
Despite those savings, other expenses continued, including about $300,000 for utilities and $300,000 for employee benefits. Maintenance costs were about $685,000.
The city helped cover the losses with its annual contribution of $500,000 from the general fund to arena operating costs. The city also kicks in $300,000 a year for capital costs where needed to help keep the facility upgraded.
The city contributed another $545,000 from federal COVID-19 relief to help cover the costs when the ShoWare Center reopens later this year to concerts and events.
Since the arena opened in 2009, it has lost money each year for total losses of about $5.9 million. The facility had its best year in 2018 when it lost $197,052 and its worst year in 2014 when it lost $752,354. The arena lost $641,834 in 2019.
The ShoWare Center lost $162,635 in the first quarter of 2021 as it has yet to reopen for ticketed concerts and events.
Federal relief grant
SMG has applied for a shuttered venue operators grant, part of the American Rescue Plan Act federal COVID-19 relief package. Higgins said they expect to hear in June whether they get a grant and the amount.
“There are a few numbers out there,” Higgins said about the potential amount. “It could be in the millions, but the number is all over the place now.”
Eligible applicants may qualify for grants equal to 45% of their gross earned revenue, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration.
Disney On Ice to return?
Higgins said talks continue to bring Disney On Ice to the ShoWare Center in November, one of the most popular events each year at the facility.
Just two events are scheduled so far for 2021, a X League women’s football game between the Seattle Thunder and Arizona Red Devils on July 31 and a Grupo Firme concert on Sept. 18.
“Most shows and concert halls have been pushed out to the first quarter of 2022,” Higgins said about booking events, which are expected to sell quickly once dates are announced.
New scoreboard coming
The Kent City Council approved last year a new scoreboard for the arena at an estimated cost of $500,000. The scoreboard will be ready when the Seattle Thunderbirds junior hockey teams begins the 2021-2022 season in October, Higgins said.
The T-Birds played 12 games this spring at the arena (without fans) during an abbreviated season in an effort to promote Western Hockey League players to NHL scouts, who were allowed to attend the games.
While concerts and shows were canceled at the arena, it has hosted several community events.
King County has rented the facility for a vaccination site since February, a contract that runs at least through July 31. The loading dock at the facility has been used to help store and distribute donated items for food banks around the region. The ShoWare Center also served as a vote center last fall.