By David Skolnick
A mere $577 operating surplus for the city-owned Covelli Centre’s second quarter, April to June, doesn’t look impressive on paper — particularly with $200,000-plus surpluses for the same quarter in 2012 and 2013.
But it’s significantly better than the $93,840 loss the center was projecting for this past quarter.
Also, combined with the $382,016 operating surplus from this year’s first quarter — the most profitable three months in the center’s nearly nine-year history — the facility’s surplus is $382,593 as of June 30. That’s the largest operating surplus for the center for the first six months of the year since it opened in October 2005.
The record first quarter was largely driven by the Feb. 1 sold-out concert by Elton John with a record attendance of 7,611. The previous record for a quarter was January to March 2009 with a $242,340 operating surplus, largely because of a Kelly Pavlik middleweight boxing title fight.
This year’s second quarter had 14 events, including eight Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey circus performances, and 18 days in which the North American tour of “Walking With Dinosaurs” paid rent to rehearse at the center. The tour also used the center for rehearsals during the first five days of July.
“We are very pleased with the way that turned out,” said Eric Ryan, the center’s executive director, about the Dinosaurs rehearsals. “It’s a way to make revenue in the summer months.”
As for the second quarter, Ryan said, “Anytime that the quarter is break-even is a win for us. We’ve had better second quarters, but for us, it’s about the entire year, and this has been the best first half of the year in the history of the facility.”
Kyle Miasek, the city’s deputy finance director, said, “Look at that [surplus] number for the first quarter. We didn’t have to cut into it even though the center was expected to lose money” in the second quarter.
The third quarter, July to September, is a money loser for the indoor facility. It’s had only one year of surplus, in 2011 because of a Barry Manilow concert. The center loses money during that quarter — though considerably less in recent years: a $1,221 loss last year compared with a $253,998 loss in 2006 — because it can’t compete during the summer with outdoor venues, Ryan and Miasek said.
Just three events are booked through Sept. 30: a Rod Stewart concert Aug. 24; Life in Color: Unleash, an outdoor paint party with music; and a WWE wrestling show Sept. 27.
“With Rod Stewart, we won’t make money in the third quarter, but we’ll do better than expected,” Miasek said. “Stewart will help offset the downside of the third quarter.”
The center projects to end this year with a $275,000 operating surplus with losses during the second half of the year.
But it’s likely to do better than that. The $382,593 operating surplus it had as of June 30 is greater than the $284,570 projected surplus amount for the first six months of the year.
Also, the city’s 5.5 percent admission tax on tickets sold for events at the center during the second quarter was $28,720, Miasek said. The tax generated a record $104,217 during the first quarter.
That money goes directly into the city’s general fund and helps offset the $11.9 million loan Youngstown borrowed to pay its portion of constructing the $45 million facility. The city still owes about $11 million of that loan.
The city will pay about $315,000 toward the principal this year, and $154,140 in interest. It’s already made more than that during the first six months between operating surplus and admission tax.
That doesn’t include food-and-beverage sales. The city made about $95,000 in food-and-beverage sales last year. The center reports those sales to the city twice a year, and is expected to provide that number for the first half of the year in the coming weeks.
Meanwhile, the facility is upgrading its suite level with new carpeting and paint, and is spending about $70,000 on its Huntington Bank VIP Lounge, Ryan said. In addition to new carpeting and paint, the lounge includes a glass wall to separate it from the rest of the facility, and new furniture will be in place the week before the Stewart concert, he said.