Kent’s ShoWare Center to get additional $1.5 million in federal relief

City-owned arena received $3.1 million earlier this year due to COVID-19 impact that shuttered venue

The city of Kent will get another $1.52 million in federal relief for the accesso ShoWare Center due to the impact of COVID-19.

The city-owned arena received $3.1 million earlier this year from the U.S. Small Business Administration for the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant for emergency assistance for venues impacted between March 1, 2020 and Dec. 31, 2021. The funds are part of the American Rescue Plan Act approved by Congress.

“The SBA opened a grant for additional funding,” City Finance Director Paula Painter said at the Nov. 2 Kent City Council meeting. “The venue provided more information and more recent financial figures, and they offered an additional $1.5 million.”

That brings the total to $4.3 million in relief to the ShoWare Center. The 6,200-seat arena lost $1.14 million in 2020 as it was shut down most of the year due to the pandemic. The arena has lost $591,000 through the first three quarters of 2021, according to SMG, the operator of the facility.

Funds must be used on eligible expenses such as payroll costs, contractual agreements, utility payments, ordinary and necessary business expenses and administrative costs.

“We will have to come back to you with a plan of how to spend the money,” Painter said to the council. “We will work with the SMG general manager about how best to use the dollars within the parameters of the grant.”

The U.S. Small Business Administration’s contract deadline for the city to spend the money was extended to June 30, 2022.

Of the $3.1 million grant, SMG and city officials decided about $1.8 million will go to personnel costs; $403,000 to administrative costs; $390,000 to utilities; $295,000 to business expenses; and $111,000 to contractual agreements, Painter said in an earlier report to the council.

The city’s 5% admissions tax on each ticket sold brought in just $138,501 in 2020 compared to $638,090 in 2019. There was no admission tax monies through the first eight months of this year. That money goes to the city’s general fund.

The city has helped cover the arena losses with its annual contribution of $500,000 from the general fund to 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 $84.5 million ShoWare Center reopened this fall to concerts and events.

Staffing problems

As with many other businesses, the ShoWare Center has struggled to hire enough employees.

The arena is looking to hire part-time kitchen help, ushers, ticket sellers and changeover laborers who help set up the floor for hockey games and concerts. The pay is $20 per hour. The list of jobs on the ShoWare’s website includes usher, Zamboni driver, security office personnel, audio/visual technician, parking attendant, ticket seller, bartender, suite attendant, catering, suites runner, line cook, prep cook and dishwasher.

The center had to shut down a buffet it normally operates on the second floor prior to events due to a lack of kitchen help.

“We need you if you can cook or if you can’t cook,” said Tim Higgins, ShoWare general manager, at an Oct. 28 Public Facilities District meeting.

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