Kent’s ShoWare Center reduces financial losses in 2018

Arena has second lowest loss in 10 years

The city-owned accesso ShoWare Center isn’t making money or breaking even yet, but the operating loss in 2018 ranks as the second lowest since the Kent arena opened 10 years ago.

The center lost $197,052 in 2018, with expenses of $3.3 million and income of $3.1 million, according to the income statement released by SMG, operators of the arena. That’s the best year for the arena since a loss of $155,268 in 2016.

“We had an excellent 2018 and a great fourth quarter,” said Arletta Voter, ShoWare finance director, at a Jan. 31 meeting of the Public Facilities District Board that helps oversee arena operations.

ShoWare Center turned a profit of about $16,000 the first six months of last year and had a strong fourth quarter with a profit of $132,636. But a loss of $329,743 in the third quarter (during summer months) hampered the overall picture. The arena has lost money each year since it opened in 2009 for a total of $4.1 million, with the highest loss of $752,324 in 2014.

Tim Higgins, ShoWare general manager, told the board that while the operating loss remains, the money the city makes from its admission tax puts the arena about $263,000 above even. The city collects 5 percent on each ticket sold, money that goes into the Kent’s general fund and helps cover losses and capital projects at the arena.

An estimated admission tax collection of $460,217 in 2018 set a record high since the ShoWare Center opened.

“I think it’s important to emphasize the admission tax and what is collected through the building,” Higgins said. “Our operational loss this year when subsidized back by the building, the admission tax goes to the same pot so ultimately it’s a plus.”

The city covers operating losses at the ShoWare with monies from the general fund, including the admission tax.

Fewer people (397,124) went to events at the arena last year compared to 2017 (410,241), but those people spent a higher average amount on each ticket to bump up the admission tax by $113,109 from 2017.

“We did have similar number of events versus (2017) but the events last year were better attended and higher-end ticket prices,” Higgins said.

Booking more concerts and family shows that attract large crowds brings in more revenue with a strong boost to food and beverage sales. Concessions brought in $1.07 million to the arena last year.

The annual Hometown Holiday concert in December sold out with 6,000 fans, the largest crowd to attend that event in its five years at the arena. The concert featured country artists and had a popular lineup of Luke Combs, Maren Morris, Kelsea Ballerini, Brothers Osborne, Jordan Davis and Mitchell Tenpenny.

Disney On Ice had 10 shows in November and the annual event always draws good crowds. The Seattle Thunderbirds junior hockey team, the arena’s anchor tenant, continued to draw well and had 17 home games in the fourth quarter when the ShoWare Center turned a profit of $132,686.

More college basketball

With the start of the estimated $800 million renovation of KeyArena for a Seattle NHL team in 2021, the Seattle University men’s basketball team is expected to play five or six games during the 2019-2020 season and the 2020-2021 season at the ShoWare Center, Higgins said.

The Redhawks played games against Washington State and Bryant at the 6,500-seat Kent arena in November. The WSU game drew 1,977 fans while Bryant drew 1,236. After playing at KeyArena, Seattle plays most of its home games at the Redhawk Center on campus, but the facility holds just 999. The new arena at Seattle Center isn’t expected to be done until spring 2021.

“They are looking to put five to six games in our building with KeyArena being out,” said Higgins, who added the Redhawks might even play more games in Kent once the new arena is done because of potential conflicts for dates with the NHL team and concerts.

In fact, Seattle University officials requested that the visiting Western Hockey League locker room at the ShoWare Center be painted to feature Redhawks colors and their logo in an effort to help recruit players to the NCAA Division I school.

“We’ll do that for them,” Higgins said.

Higgins said he also had talked to officials with the Seattle Storm of the WNBA, who also had to find a temporary home with KeyArena shut down. But for their 2019 season that begins in May, the Storm will play five home games at the Angel of the Winds Arena in Everett and the rest at the University of Washington’s Alaska Airlines Arena, according to the team’s website.

Depending how the Storm games draw in Everett, the ShoWare Center might be able to attract the team to Kent for a few games in 2020.

ShoWare Center operating losses

2018: $197,052

2017: $361,861

2016: $155,268

2015: $254,530

2014: $752,324

2013: $370,874

2012: $707,541

2011: $487,855

2010: $427,119

2009: $480,851

Total: $4.1 million

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