Kent’s ShoWare Center poised for strong showing in 2018

City-owned arena attracting more concerts

With more concerts scheduled than previous years and several of them selling out, the city-owned accesso ShoWare Center could be on the way to one of its best financial years since opening in 2009.

“We budgeted 16 concerts for 2018, we have 17 confirmed shows with more to come,” said Tim Higgins, ShoWare general manager, at a April 26 meeting of the city’s Public Facilities District board that helps oversee operations of the $84.5 million arena. “We are seeing a lot more tours (promoters) looking at us.”

The arena hosted 10 concerts through April compared to only three through the first four months of 2017. Three of the April concerts sold out – Mexican band Banda MS on April 8, heavy metal band Judas Priest on April 15 and rapper Post Malone and 21 Savage on April 29.

“We had more than 26,000 people through the building,” Higgins said about the five April concerts that also included rapper Snoop Dogg on April 21 and Norwegian DJ and musician Kygo on April 10.

The financial impact of the April concerts won’t be known until SMG, which operates the arena, reveals its second-quarter financial statement in July. But concerts are the moneymakers for ShoWare Center because the large crowds lead to high food and beverage sales.

The arena started off the first quarter of this year strong with a profit of $58,107. The arena had revenues of $970,622 and expenses of $912,515 in the first three months, according to the ShoWare Center income statement. SMG had estimated a first-quarter profit of $21,084.

“We had a great first quarter,” said Arletta Voter, ShoWare Center finance director.

Once again, concerts played a big role in the higher revenue. Comedian Jo Koy sold out two shows, which brought more than 11,000 people to the arena. Rapper G-Eazy also sold out the venue with a crowd of 6,800. The Disney Live stage show added a third performance after selling out the first two and brought in more than 6,000 people during its one-day stay.

The arena’s anchor tenant Seattle Thunderbirds junior hockey team played 24 games in the first quarter with attendance higher than last season. Unlike the previous few years, the T-Birds were eliminated in the first round of the Western Hockey League playoffs. The extra playoff games had helped boost revenue in the past but the arena seems to making up for it with more concerts.

The ShoWare Center has lost money each year since it opened, a total of $3.9 million. The arena had its lowest loss of $155,268 in 2016 and its highest loss of $752,324 in 2014. The city covers losses each year with money from its general fund.

But another strong sign for this year is the admission tax fund (5 percent on each ticket sold), which hit a first-quarter record of $159,593 because of the large crowds. The admission tax for all of 2017 was $350,000.

“We are at 46 percent of what we ended 2017,” Voter said. “It’s quite significant.”

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 operating losses and capital improvement projects at the ShoWare Center.

A total of 142,156 people attended events at the arena in the first three months, up 6,582 compared to the first quarter in 2017.

“We are on track to really grow the business this year,” said Erin Buck, ShoWare Center marketing director. “We are seeing a lot more of younger patrons with the G-Eazy and Post Malone type shows.”

Other concerts lined up so far this year include the country duo Sugarland on June 7, the All-Star Throwback Jam featuring Bone Thugs-N-Harmony, Ja Rule, E40 and others on July 21 and singer Lauryn Hill on Sept. 15. Buck said more shows will be announced soon.

“Overall, quarter one was great, quarter two will be better and I think quarters three and four will be just as busy,” Buck said.

Kurt Hanson, city Economic and Community Development director, told the Public Facilities District board that having the ShoWare Center and all of its events downtown helps market the area to apartment and hotel developers as well as people looking for urban-style living.

“ShoWare is a huge player for us when we market the core,” Hanson said. “As a living choice, it’s easy to sell. We have concerts, hockey, AMC theater and restaurants.”

In return, the development of apartments downtown and plans to bring a hotel to the city’s Naden property brings more potential customers to Kent for the arena.

“It’s an added customer base just blocks away,” he said.

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