Financial woes continue for Kent ShoWare Center

The financial woes for the ShoWare Center in Kent continued in the first three months of this year. "We are $84,000 in the hole," said Patrick McClusky, ShoWare finance director, at a Thursday meeting of the Public Facilities District board.

Brothers Sammy Halber

Brothers Sammy Halber

The financial woes for the ShoWare Center in Kent continued in the first three months of this year.

“We are $84,000 in the hole,” said Patrick McClusky, ShoWare finance director, at a Thursday meeting of the Public Facilities District board.

The board oversees operations of the $84.5 million, city-owned events center.

The events center had expenses of $635,772 and receipts of $551,870 for January through March for a deficit of $83,902, according to the ShoWare Center income statement compiled by SMG, the arena operator.

The arena lost $444,792 in 2009, its first year of operation. ShoWare officials have projected a loss of $141,000 in 2010.

“We had two concerts projected that did not take place,” said Tim Higgins, ShoWare general manager, to the board about the declining revenue from January through March. “And attendance at Thunderbirds games and other events was down.”

With the lower attendance at Seattle Thunderbirds hockey games and other events, the less revenue the arena makes from concessions, Higgins said.

Despite the slow start to 2010, Higgins told the board that more promoters are showing an interest in booking events at ShoWare. Higgins said a key remains getting more people out to booked events.

“It’s all about selling tickets and getting butts in the seats,” Higgins said.

Arena officials hope the recent announcement about the Aug. 5 Backstreet Boys concert gives ShoWare a much-needed boost.

“The Backstreet Boys is good for us to show the industry that we’re a player in this marketplace,” Higgins said. “We need you to tell all of your friends that this concert is very important to us.”

The Backstreet Boys are a pop group formed in 1993 in Florida. They are best known for their 1999 hit “I Want It That Way.”

Attendance at T-Birds hockey games averaged about 4,000 fans per game for the 2009-2010 season that ended in March, said Colin Campbell, T-Birds vice president and assistant general manager, in an interview after the board meeting. The T-Birds are the anchor tenant of the arena and have a 30-year lease with the city.

“Our attendance for the second half of the season was good but not great,” said Campbell, who had hoped the team would draw more than 4,000 per game for the year.

Campbell said he expects more than 90 percent of the nearly 2,000 season-ticket holders to renew for the 2010-2011 season. Sales staff has sold 130 new season tickets. The T-Birds open the season Sept. 25 against the Portland Winterhawks at the ShoWare Center.

The hockey club hopes a new 24-flex ticket package helps boost attendance next season. A buyer can get 24 tickets that can be used at any game or games.

“They can use two at one game or six the next game or whatever they choose,” Campbell said. “Our goal is to sell 500 of these before the season.”

The 24-flex ticket package costs $468 ($19.50 per ticket) for premium seats and saves fans as much as $372 off single-game online ticket orders, according to the T-Birds.

The city is responsible to cover any operating losses at the arena and has set aside money within the capital budget to help cover a potential lack of revenue at the arena. City officials use the capital budget to help pay for improvements to city streets, facilities and other projects.

Most of the project funds to build the arena come from the city issuing bonds to be paid back over the next 30 years from fees collected from events and activities at the facility. If those fees to pay the debt service fall short, city officials use funds from the capital budget.

In addition to city bonds, the state will pay nearly $21 million toward the arena through a Public Facilities District that allows Kent to keep 0.037 percent of the state’s share of the sales tax, or 3.7 cents on every $100 purchase, collected in the city.

The arena also is the home of the Kent Predators of the professional Indoor Football League and the Seattle Mist of the women’s Lingerie Football League.

The Predators have two home games in May and one in June left on their first-year schedule. The Mist return for their second season with home games Aug. 27 and Oct. 8.

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