The Covelli Centre smashed its record for quarterly operating surplus during the first three months of this year, largely because of Elton John.
The city-owned facility had an operating surplus for the January-to-March quarter of $382,016 — the most for any quarter in its 81/2-year history.
“To start off the year like this is tremendous,” said Eric Ryan, the center’s executive director. “We’re extremely pleased.”
John’s sold-out concert Feb. 1 had a record attendance of 7,611.
Though that show can be credited largely with the center’s surplus for the first quarter, other events also helped, Ryan said.
That included a sold-out 6,000-ticket concert by Darius Rucker, seven Cirque du Soleil shows and two weekends of the state’s elementary- and middle-school wrestling championships.
Overall, the center had 36 events and 90,000 people during the first three months of the year, Ryan said.
The previous record was the first quarter of 2009 with a $242,340 operating surplus, primarily because of a Kelly Pavlik middleweight boxing title fight.
The center projected to end 2014 with a surplus of about $275,000. Though that number has already been surpassed, Ryan said the current quarter [April to June] and the third quarter [July to September] are going to be slow.
“The concert business in the summer months has continued to change over the last several years, and it is increasingly difficult to compete with outdoor facilities for events and concerts,” Ryan wrote in a letter attached to the financial report. “We will work hard to minimize all expenses and pick up any revenue that’s possible.”
The center will host the technical rehearsal of an unnamed national tour over a three-week span “during an otherwise empty period,” Ryan wrote. The tour will pay rent to the center to use the facility for private rehearsals.
The city is considering the construction of an amphitheater to increase its events during the summer, but no decision has been finalized.
Also, the city’s 5.5 percent admission tax on tickets sold for events at the center during the first three months of this year generated a record $104,217. That money goes directly into the city’s general fund and helps offset the cost of what the city pays annually toward the $11.9 million loan it borrowed in 2005 as its portion of constructing the $45 million facility.
The city paid $469,140 last year on the loan for the center — $315,000 toward the principal and $154,140 in interest. The city still owes about $11 million of that loan.
The center made $546,052 in revenue in 2013 from the operating surplus, the admission tax and food-and-beverage sales.
The center reports its food-and-beverage sales to the city twice a year, and the first six months of the year will be in the second-quarter report.