As the Youngstown-owned Chevrolet Centre gears up for the fall and winter seasons, the individual Mayor Jay Williams has assigned to oversee the facility's operation should seek an answer to this question: Were all comparable facilities around the country in the dark as many days during the summer as the Chevrolet Centre?
The question goes to the heart of the debate in the community over the arena's operation.
The latest report from Youngstown's deputy finance director, Kyle L. Miasek, reveals that the first 12 months of the facility's existence, starting in October 2005, will reflect an operating loss of $80,000 to $120,000.
That projection becomes even more significant when compared with the $652,264 profit estimated by Global Entertainment Corp., the Arizona-based company hired by the city to run the Chevrolet Centre.
The financial losses were brought to Miasek's attention by Global, but that does not negate the fact something is terribly wrong when a $45 million publicly financed facility is dark so much of the time.
Global's performance as the operator of the sports arena/convocation center has been placed under the microscope by supporters and critics alike as the events they booked dwindled to a precious few in the summer months.
Indeed, in July there were only two events: an outdoor concert and Kidzfest for children.
Is that the national norm for such facilities, or is Global simply not doing all it can to keep the arena busy?
Deputy Finance Director Miasek should conduct his own comparative study and not base his findings on data provided by Global.
In fact, Global's performance should also be the subject of an investigation, seeing as how word of the company's being fired by the city of Hidalgo, Texas, last week spread like wildfire through the Mahoning Valley.
Global had operated the Dodge Arena in Hidalgo. The facility opened in October 2003 and was the template for the Chevrolet Centre.
Past and current city officials who pushed for the construction of the Youngstown facility have long used Hidalgo as justification for spending the $45 million of taxpayer money on such a risky proposition.
After he took office in January, Mayor Williams launched a review of Global's contract with the city entered into by his predecessor, George McKelvey, and made it clear the company has to justify its existence in Youngstown.
Global won over Williams when it bolstered its financial commitment to the center. It agreed to give the city $600,000 a year to help cover its $767,000 annual debt service on the $11.5 million it borrowed to make the project a reality. The rest of the project cost was paid for with federal and state grants. Global also agreed to cover any operating losses.
But while that financial sweetener might appease government officials, it does not ease the worry many taxpayers have about the dearth of events.
Things will certainly look up this fall and winter because of the SteelHounds minor league hockey home games and the eight home games of the Mahoning Valley Thunder AF2 team, as well as Disney on Ice and the Harlem Globetrotters show. There also are three days of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & amp; Bailey Circus performances later this month and two DoodleBops Live! shows in October.
In the end, taxpayers may be worrying needlessly about the way the arena is being operated, but the public certainly needs to know whether the Chevrolet Centre is in a class all its own.